Verdict unlikely by 31 August as the accused will present their witnesses who will then be cross questioned by the CBI.
New Delhi: The judgment in the Babri Masjid demolition case is still a long way away despite the CBI completing the recording of the statements of 30 of the 32 accused in the case, including senior BJP leader L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.
During the recording of his statement through video conferencing on Friday, Advani denied all charges against him. Similar stance has been taken by the other accused, including Joshi. Of the remaining two accused, Shiv Sena leader Satish Pradhan could not give his statement as he is under quarantine in Mumbai due to Covid-19, while the other accused Om Prakash Pandey is absconding.
According to CBI counsels, the case is now in the last leg of the recording of statements of the accused under Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), during which the accused gets an opportunity to refute the prosecution evidence against them. “Once the statement of Pradhan is recorded, the process under Section 313 will be over and after that the court will hear the statements of the witnesses that the 31 accused are likely to present in their defence. The accused have told the court that they are innocent and would like to present evidence and witnesses to prove this. The cross examination of all such witnesses will also be done by the CBI,” senior Advocate M.M. Haq, who is assisting the prosecution (CBI) in the case, told The Sunday Guardian. A total of 49 people were booked in the case, out of which 17 have died.
In April 2017, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Rohinton Nariman and comprising Justice Surya Kant, had ordered the CBI special court to conduct a day-to-day trial of the demolition case and to conclude it in two years. The deadline expired on April 19. The Supreme Court later, on 8 May issued a new deadline of 31 August 2020, with instructions to deliver the judgment by then. “The case’s decision is unlikely to come by 31 August as the accused will now present their witnesses who will be then cross questioned by the CBI. Even if each accused present only two witnesses in his support, there will be 60 witnesses and their cross questioning will require a considerable time. It is not humanly possible to complete the trial by 31 August,” an official source said.
Close to 351 witnesses were presented by the CBI in the case, many of them prominent journalists, who are still running after the CBI to reimburse the money that they had spent on traveling and lodging from their own pockets to travel to Lucknow to give evidence in the case.
“Many responsible citizens accepted our request and came to Lucknow and tell the court what they saw. The CBI is empowered and has been given the budget to reimburse their expenses, but because of red tape and the fact that the CBI does not need them anymore, no one is concerned about reimbursing the expenses borne by them,” an official said when asked about the reason for the expenses not being reimbursed.
Multiple FIRs were filed by the UP police in the case in December 1992, after the masjid was demolished by karsevaks on 6 December 1992 and it was only on 27 August 1993 that the CBI was handed all the cases.