The Supreme Court on Friday asked the special CBI judge in Lucknow to conclude the trial in the Babri Masjid demolition case, which includes high profile BJP leaders as accused and pronounce judgement by August 31. The earlier deadline for delivering the verdict was April.
On May 6, trial judge, S.K. Yadav, wrote to the apex court seeking an extension of time, stating that even recording of evidence has not been completed. A bench of Justices R.F. Nariman and Surya Kant observed that nine months have passed, yet the evidence is not completed in the case according to the letter. “We may indicate that video conferencing facilities are available and should be used in order to complete all evidence as well as applications that may be filed on that behalf,” it said.
The top court observed that it is up to the special judge to control the proceedings in accordance with the law so that inordinate delay that is beyond the time frame that they now give is no longer breached. “Having taken the letter dated May 6 into consideration, we extend the period to complete evidence and deliver judgment till 31st August,” said the bench.
In July 2019, the apex court had directed the trial court to complete the recording of evidence within six months and deliver judgment within nine months. The top court had also directed the UP Government to issue administrative orders to extend the tenure of the special judge of the CBI court. The judge was due to retire on September 30, 2019.
BJP veterans L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharati and 13 others are facing trial on charges of criminal conspiracy in connection with the demolition of Babri Masjid in December 1992. In April 2017, the apex court had restored the conspiracy charges against the accused by allowing an appeal by CBI against the discharge to the accused by the Allahabad High Court.
“We are cognizant of the fact that Shri Yadav is making all efforts in order that the trial reaches a just conclusion. However, given the original time frame and the extended time frame, the effort must now be to complete the proceedings and deliver judgment latest by 31st August 2020,” said the top court.
In November 2019, a 5-judge apex court bench directed that the entire disputed land of 2.77 acres in Ayodhya must be handed over for the construction of Ram Mandir. The Court held that an alternate plot of 5 acres must be allotted to the Sunni Waqf Board for construction of the mosque.