Babri Masjid Demolition Verdict

28 years after the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, a special court in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh on September 30, 2020 acquitted all 32 accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case. In his verdict, CBI Court Judge SK Yadav also agreed with the defence that the structure was demolished by miscreants who defied the directive of BJP and VHP leaders assembled at Ram Katha Kunj to restrict themselves to symbolic kar seva in the vicinity of the now demolished mosque. The highlights of the verdict can be summarized as follows: there was no pre-planned conspiracy to demolish the structure; unruly elements amongst kar sevaks were responsible for the demolition; no viable proof established against the accused; authenticity of the audios, videos not established and; audio not clear.

The verdict was big relief for the accused who would have been under pressure all these years. But any and every happening in India is related to politics and this was a big event. So there are many voices of dissent like: Ashok Gehlot, CM Rajasthan calling the episode attempt by BJP-RSS to destroy communal harmony; Randeep Singh Surjewala, Congress spokesman saying every Indian having faith in Constitution expects the Centre, state government to appeal against the verdict; Arshad Madani, President Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind asked the demolition in broad daylight was under whose patronage? Is this justice or failure of justice?; Madhav Godbole, former home secretary said the system has failed the Constitution; MK Stalin, DMK President sayd CBI failed to act impartially being caged parrot of the BJP-led Centre; Zafayab Jilani of AIMPLB said the verdict could be challenged in high court; CPI (M) termed the verdict a traversity of justice; Asaduddin Owaisi, president AIMIM called the verdict “obnoxious” adding that the CBI should appeal against it and; TMC with elections in sight said those who are not happy with the judgment will get relief in higher courts.

Significantly, MK Dhar, former joint director Intelligence Bureau wrote in his book ‘Open Secrets – India’s Intelligence Unveiled’ published in 2005 that based on the Congress directive, two years before the demolition of Babri Masjid all BJP and RSS meetings were secretly audio and video taped which conclusively proved that there was no conspiracy to demolish Babri Masjid which happened on the spur of the moment by unruly elements. He wrote that IB had 123 of these tapes in its archives but when the investigation was opened, only those 26 odd tapes were produced before the Court which could create element of doubt. Who gave such orders – Congress President or the Prime Minister? No one challenged MK Dhar for penning this in his book. The above verdict being in line with what Dhar wrote is obviously fair but may be appealed against for the sheer politics of it, even as the Ram Janambhoomi issue is amicably settled and both the Temple and Mosque will come up in due course.

Having said the above, there is need to look at the functioning of investigating agencies, judiciary and the political masters which is discussed in undertones but continues to plague the nation. In the instant case, the judge of CBI Special Court nixed the case of the CBI. Similarly in 2016, CBI kept former IAF Chief ACM Tyagi in custody for 27 days in connection with the AugustaWestland helicopter scam till a CBI Special Court gave him bail for lack of sufficient evidence. It is difficult to believe that CBI which has experience of hundreds of investigations did not know they had insufficient evidence in both these cases. So whose orders are they following and what are the politics involved?

What about our judiciary? Forget Prashant Bhushan recently charged with Contempt of Court. Former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan had moved Supreme Court in 2010 accusing eight former CJIs being “definitely” corruption and daring the court to send him to jail for committing contempt of court. In his application, Shanti Bhushan mentioned two former CJIs personally telling him that while they were in office, their immediate predecessor and immediate successor were corrupt judges. The names of these four CJIs too were included in the application to the Supreme Court. Significantly, he had stated, “Unless the level of corruption in the judiciary is exposed and brought in the public domain, the institutions of governance cannot be activated to take effective measures to eliminate the evil.” Nothing was heard about this case thereafter, which is no surprise. In 2015, Markandey Katju, former SC judge, addressing lawyers at the Punjab and Haryana high Court had stated that 50% of the higher judiciary consisting of SC and High Court judges are corrupt.

And what about our political masters? Reports three years back had revealed that of the 4120 MLA’s and 462 MLCs (total 4582), 1,581 lawmakers (including 228 Members of Parliament) faced serious criminal charges; implying one-third of the so called political cream of India are scoundrels. Whether the number has gone up today is not known but Parliament would never enact a law to debar criminals from polls as parties prefer them as candidates as their win-ability is higher, as was observed by a Supreme Court bench headed by CJI Deepak Mishra on August 9, 2018. Don’t mind perfunctory self-declaration mandated by Election Commission. In 2017, Centre announced setting up 12 special courts to exclusively deal with cases against 1,581 tainted lawmakers in 2018, including two special courts to handle cases against 228 MPs. Rs 7.80 cr were earmarked for the operation “to be completed within 2018”. Anything heard thereafter?

Wonder how many have heard the video clip of Markandey Katju telling a media channel that the only solution to reform India is to shoot or hang the politicians. Can India clean up this muck? Some say it would be easier to democratize China and prosecute Xi Jinping and China’s Communist Party for war crimes. So the interplay between political masters, investigating agencies and the judiciary will continue. To what extent and in which particular case will be subjects for discussion.

Prakash Katoch is third generation army officer hailing from Himachal Pradesh. He is former Lieutenant General from Special Forces and post-retirement has published over 2100 articles on international affairs, geopolitics, military, security, technical and topical issues besides authoring two books. He is active in seminars at both national and international levels.

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