The 2,300-page verdict by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court, which acquitted all 32 persons accused of conspiring to demolish the Babri Masjid in 1992, largely focused on the lack of credible evidence provided by the probe agency.
Judge Surendra Kumar Yadav determined that in the absence of this, it could not be proved that there was prior conspiracy to raze the disputed structure. Interestingly, the report of the 1992 Liberhan Commission set up to look into the demolition concluded that there was one.
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In court, CBI argued that the provocative speeches given by senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad provoked kar sevaks (Hindu religious volunteers) who gathered in Ayodhya for several days before December 6, 1992.
To bolster its claim, it presented newspaper reports, photographs, video recordings of the demolition, 351 witnesses and the police complaints that were lodged hours after the mosque was razed.
But it ran into problems from the start.
During the trial, BJP veteran LK Advani and MM Joshi’s lawyer MP Ahluwalia pointed out that in two FIRs filed on December 6, 1992, the time of the demolition was recorded differently, and raised questions about the veracity of the proof.
The first FIR (197/92) lodged by station house officer Priyamwadnath Shukla at Ram Janmabhoomi police station mentioned the time of the demolition as 12pm. This FIR blamed unnamed kar sevaks.
The second FIR (198/92), also filed at Ram Janmabhoomi police station, by sub-inspector Ganga Prasad Tewari recorded the time of the demolition as 10am. This FIR blamed Advani, Joshi and other leaders.
Ahluwalia argued that the two FIRs, filed in the same police station, were incongruent because the second FIR – naming the politicians — was an afterthought filed to falsely frame persons. “During trial of the case, Priyamwadnath Shukla (then SHO) failed to justify why this was done,” said the judgment.
The second problem turned out to be voice samples.
During the trial, the prosecution alleged that Advani and Joshi, along with others, were present on a stage and raising slogans that ultimately provoked the mob into demolishing the disputed structure.
But the prosecution failed to submit recordings in court of any slogan raised by them or their voice samples – and the defence lawyers were able to argue that the recordings were muffled and it was not proven that the speeches were indeed delivered by the accused. The court observed that this could have been a valuable proof.
The third problem for the prosecution was the evidence presented in the form of newspaper articles, videos and photographs.
Yadav said in the judgment that newspaper articles were not submitted in their original form, videos were not certified from a forensic lab, and photographs were given without negatives.
What also went against the prosecution was that none of the local residents of Ayodhya testified against any of the accused to prove that they incited the mob.
“During investigation, no person came and testified that he was involved in the demolition of the disputed structure and this is also correct to state that nobody said during the probe that he got excited from the speeches of leaders and took part in the demolition,” the verdict noted.
The court also observed there were intelligence reports at the time indicating some “anti-social elements” might indulge in some “unwarranted act”.
The court said that witness Anju Gupta had given a statement in court that some ‘dacoits and criminals’ were part of the crowd. Gupta was additional superintendent of police, posted in Ayodhya during the demolition. She testified in court.