The Supreme Court today extended the deadline for a special CBI court in Lucknow to complete the trial and deliver verdict in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case against senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and others by August 31. In July last year, the top court had directed the trial court to deliver the judgement in nine months, that is, by April-end.
The extension of the deadline comes after the CBI judge wrote to the Supreme Court seeking more time citing the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Supreme Court has asked the CBI court to use video conferencing facilities and said the August deadline should not be breached.
Besides LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti, the accused against whom conspiracy charge was invoked in the case on April 19, 2017, by the Supreme Court include former BJP lawmaker Vinay Katiar and Sadhvi Ritambara.
Three other high-profile accused Giriraj Kishore, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal and Vishnu Hari Dalmia have died during trial.
In April 2017, the top court had set a two-year deadline to complete the trial. In July 2019, the two-year deadline was extended by nine more months and the Supreme Court also extended the tenure of the special CBI court Judge SK Yadav till the trial is over. The judge was to retire in September 2019.
In 2017, the Supreme Court had clubbed two criminal cases pending for years in the Rae Bareli and Lucknow courts and transferred it to the special CBI court in Lucknow, directing the judge to conduct a day-to-day trial.
The Rae Bareli case deals with accusations against BJP and right wing leaders for having given speeches to promote enmity and threatened national integration; the Lucknow case involves unnamed "kar sevaks" or activists.
Constructed by the Mughals, the 16th century Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh's Ayodhya was demolished by "kar sevaks" or activists in 1992 following a nationwide movement led by LK Advani and others for a temple at the site where the mosque was.
In a landmark judgment in November, a five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court had awarded the disputed 2.77 acre land in Ayodhya for a temple. The court said a government-run trust will be responsible for the construction. The Muslims would be given a five-acre "suitable" plot in the town, the Supreme Court had announced.