"We want to do justice by using our powers in the Constitution," the court observed during a marathon four-hour-long hearing. It has reserved its verdict and told the parties to file their final submissions before next Tuesday.
"The issue is pending for 25 years, it should be disposed of in 2 years," a bench comprising Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Rohinton Nariman said, observing that "we want to do justice by using our powers in the Constitution". The court noted that the trial could be held on a day-to-day basis at Lucknow and the case should be wrapped up within two years.
The top court's observation to using its powers under the Constitution pertains to Article 142 that gives the court a free hand to pass any direction "for doing complete justice". Last year, the court had invoked this provision to appoint a Lokayukta for Uttar Pradesh.
The Central Bureau of Investigation had challenged the Allahabad High Court order in May 2010 confirming the lower court's decision of May 2001 to drop conspiracy charges against the BJP veterans and discharge them from the case.
Mr KK Venugopal, who was representing the two BJP veterans, opposed the court's hint that it might invoke its powers under Article 142. "By using that, more than a million people lost their jobs (a reference to the ban on selling and serving liquor near highways across the country)," Mr Venugopal said.
He insisted that there was no case against Mr Advani. "Is it a case that I conspired with one lakh Karsevaks?" he asked. Mr Advani's lawyer had recently pointed out that if conspiracy charges are added, then 183 witnesses who had testified in a lower court would have to be called again.
To the court's suggestion that the case be shifted from the Rae Bareilly court to Lucknow, the lawyer for the BJP leaders raised objections. One is aged 89 (Ms Advani) and the other is 85 (Mr Joshi). "How can they appear in fourth floor Lucknow court," he said.
The Supreme Court last month had adjourned the Babri mosque demolition case for two weeks and asked BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and other accused to give their written submissions.
"We will not accept the discharge of Advani and others on technical grounds. We will allow you (CBI) to file a supplementary charge-sheet against 13 persons by including the conspiracy charges. We will ask the trial court to conduct a joint trial," the Supreme Court said on March 6.
BJP's LK Advani, Mr Joshi and a dozen others including Vinay Katiyar and former UP chief minister Kalyan Singh were freed by a court in Raebareli of conspiracy charges in razing the masjid by Hindu activists, who believed it was built on the birthplace of Lord Ram.