Charges were framed against 48 people, but 17 have passed away during the course of the trial Credit: File Photo

Almost 28 years after the Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992, in Ayodhya, a special court in Lucknow, on Wednesday, will deliver the much-anticipated judgment in which some of the big names of the Sangh Parivar are among the accused.

On September 16, additional district and session judge Surendra Kumar Yadav had directed all the 32 surviving accused to remain present in the court on the day of the judgment. The accused include saffron veterans LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Kalyan Singh, Vinay Katiyar, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Champat Rai Bansal, Ram Vilas Vedanti, Dharmadas, Dr Satish Pradhan and Sadhvi Rithambara. If convicted, they would face maximum imprisonment up to five years.

With both Bharti and Singh convalescing in separate hospitals after coronavirus infection, it was not immediately known if they would be present in the court at the time of pronouncement of the order.

With the Supreme Court setting August 31 as the deadline and later extending it by a month for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court to give its verdict, the trial court started day-to-day hearing to complete the task in time.

The central agency produced 351 witnesses and 600 documents as evidence before the court. Charges were framed against 48 people, but 17 – Bal Thackerey, Ashok Singhal, Mahant Avaidyanath, Giriraj Kishore, and Vijayaraje Scindia – have passed away during the course of the trial.

The trial under the serious criminal conspiracy charges commenced against them after having been dropped by the trial court in 2001. The verdict was upheld by the Allahabad High Court in 2010, but the apex court ordered the restoration of the conspiracy charge against them on April 19, 2017.

The top court ordered daily hearing in the high profile case and directed the special judge to conclude it in two years.

The charge of conspiracy is in addition to the existing charges against them for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion for which they are already facing trial.

The accused are also facing charges of having made assertions “prejudicial to national integration and injuring or defiling a place of worship”.

The other charges against them include indulging in “deliberate and malicious” acts intended to outrage religious feelings, uttering statements leading to public mischief, rioting and unlawful assembly.

But the accused pleaded innocence maintaining that there is no evidence to prove their guilt and claimed they were implicated by the then Congress government at the Centre as a political vendetta.

The Babri Masjid was demolished in December 1992 by “kar sevaks” who claimed that the mosque in Ayodhya was built on the site of an ancient Ram temple.

In a significant judgment last year, the Supreme Court allotted the disputed site in Ayodhya for construction of a Ram temple, while calling the demolition of the mosque a violation of the rule of law.

An alternative five-acre site was marked in the city for building a mosque.

Wednesday’s verdict will be the last in the service period of the special judge Yadav, whose tenure was extended by the Supreme Court as he retired on September 30, 2019, till delivery of the verdict by September 30.

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