With a CBI special court acquitting former BJP chief L K Advani and 31 others who were accused of hatching a plot that led to the demolition of the Babri masjid on 6 December 1992, there was no closure to the question as to how the centuries-old structure that had stood the test of time eventually collapsed within just a few hours when it was attacked.
The court was retrying the case after the CBI requested the Supreme Court in 2011 during the UPA-1 regime to revive the conspiracy angle that was dropped a year earlier. By the time it got the SC’s go-ahead in 2017, the political climate had changed at the Centre. And CBI courts coming up with findings that go against the line of the party in power are rare.
While CBI judge S K Yadav perhaps went by technicalities to rule that the demolition was spontaneous and blamed the razing on anti-social elements, the harsh fact that there was a massive build-up of kar sevaks in Ayodhya by the VHP at that time, and Advani’s Rath Yatra in 1990 created the atmosphere for doing so, cannot be lost sight of.
The CBI botched the probe by not following some basic principles, the judge pointed out, saying original copies of the statements made by some accused persons were not submitted. He added that audio cassettes submitted as evidence were tampered with and not sealed. Also, negatives of photographs were not submitted.
Remember, the Supreme Court had last year called the demolition an egregious violation of the rule of law, adding the wrong committed must be remedied. But Wednesday’s verdict put a question mark on the ability of the law-enforcing mechanism—from the probe agencies to the judiciary—to deal with mob violence and deliver quick justice.
That the judgment came after 28 long years, by which time 16 accused had died, and also due to the prodding of the Supreme Court, itself is a testament to the lax judicial system. As former home secretary Madhav Godbole said, the case was an acid test for the Constitution, “but the system failed the Constitution”. It is doubtful if the CBI would want to revisit the case any further.