New Delhi: LK Advani and other top leaders of the BJP will be tried for criminal conspiracy in the demolition of the 16th-century Babri Masjid, the Supreme Court ruled today, agreeing with a request from the country's premier investigating agency, the CBI.
Mr Advani, 89, was originally and along with party colleagues like Uma Bharti and Murli Manohar Joshi, charged with making inflammatory speeches that motivated lakhs of right-wing volunteers or karsevaks to pull down the mosque in 1992. That trial is being held in Rae Bareli.
Separately, about 20 people are being tried in a court in Lucknow for the actual demolition of the mosque.
The CBI says that it has evidence that the leaders, who made their speeches on a stage near the mosque on the day that it was razed, were part of the deadly plan to bring down the mosque. The agency says they should therefore be tried on more serious charges of conspiracy.
In 2010, the Allahabad High Court disagreed with the CBI about criminal conspiracy charges for the BJP veterans, which meant that the leaders' case continued to be heard in Rae Bareli. The CBI has appealed against that decision in the top court.
The agency says that Mr Advani and other BJP leaders met in 1990 and decided that the mosque would be demolished and its razing was a planned, deliberate event.
At its last hearing about 10 days ago, the Supreme Court indicated it was likely to club the two cases together - that means Mr Advani and his party colleagues would be tried in Lucknow as part of one comprehensive case. Judges also expressed their frustration with the (so-far) twin trials moving slowly over 25 years, and said they could order daily hearings with a two-year deadline for a verdict.
The clubbing of the two cases has been opposed by lawyers for Mr Advani and his colleagues on the grounds that they involve different people as the accused. They also say that the trials are at different stages.
The demolition of the mosque came after a movement led in part by Mr Advani for a temple to be built on the same spot where the masjid was constructed by the Mughals. Many Hindus believe that the mosque was built over the birthplace of Lord Ram; they want a temple to him to be built there. The Supreme Court is deciding who the dispute site belongs to.
The razing of the Babri Masjid incited nationwide riots between Hindus and Muslims; around 2,000 people were killed.