A special court will deliver the much-awaited judgment today in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case in which BJP veterans L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi are among the accused.
CBI judge SK Yadav had on September 16 directed all the 32 surviving accused to remain present in the court on the day of the judgment.
The accused include former deputy prime minister Advani, former Union ministers Joshi and Uma Bharti, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh, besides Vinay Katiyar and Sadhvi Rithambara.
With both Bharti and Singh convalescing in separate hospitals after coronavirus infection, it was not immediately known if they would be present in the court at the time of pronouncement of order.
Singh, during whose tenure as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh the disputed structure was demolished, was put on trial in September last year after his tenure as governor (of Rajasthan) came to an end. Champat Rai, the general secretary of the trust in charge of constructing the Ram temple, is also among those accused.
With the Supreme Court setting August 31 as the deadline and later extending it by a month for the CBI court to give its verdict, the trial court started day-to-day hearing to complete the task in time. The central agency produced 351 witnesses and 600 documents as evidence before the court.
Charges were framed against 48 people, but 17 have died during the course of trial. The trial under the serious criminal conspiracy charges commenced against them after having been dropped by the trial court in 2001.
The verdict was upheld by the Allahabad High Court in 2010, but the apex court ordered restoration of the conspiracy charge against them on April 19, 2017.
The top court ordered daily hearing in the high profile case and directed the special judge to conclude it in two years. The charge of conspiracy is in addition to the existing charges against them for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion for which they are already facing trial.
The accused are also facing charges of having made assertions "prejudicial to national integration and injuring or defiling a place of worship". The other charges against them include indulging in "deliberate and malicious" acts intended to outrage religious feelings, uttering statements leading to public mischief, rioting and unlawful assembly.
The CBI argued that the accused conspired and instigated 'kar sevaks' to demolish the 16th century mosque. But the accused pleaded innocence maintaining that there is no evidence to prove their guilt and claimed they were implicated by the then Congress government at the Centre as a political vendetta.
The Babri Masjid was demolished in December 1992 by "kar sevaks" who claimed that the mosque in Ayodhya was built on the site of an ancient Ram temple. In a significant judgment last year, the Supreme Court allotted the disputed site in Ayodhya for construction of a Ram temple, while calling the demolition of the mosque a violation of the rule of law. An alternative five-acre site was marked in the city for building a mosque.
Before the 2017 verdict of the apex court, two sets of cases were being heard in Lucknow and Raebareli. The trial of the first case involving unnamed 'kar sevaks' was going on in a Lucknow court, while the second set of cases relating to the eight VVIPs, including Advani, Joshi, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Ashok Singhal, Katiyar, Uma Bharti, Giriraj Kishore and Sadhvi Ritambhara, were going on in a Raebareli court.
The apex court, had while restoring the charge of criminal conspiracy, directed clubbing of two cases relating to the demolition and had also ordered that the trial be concluded in two years.(With PTI inputs)