The charges against Bharatiya Janata Party stalwarts LK Advani, MM Joshi, Uma Bharti and others in the politically sensitive Babri Masjid demolition case entails a punishment ranging from two to five years of imprisonment.
The apex court, which dubbed the demolition of the medieval era monument as a “crime” which shook the “secular fabric of the Constitution”, allowed CBI’s plea on restoration of criminal conspiracy charge, which was originally invoked against the heavyweight leaders along with other charges in the case.
They will be tried under Indian Penal Code offences for allegedly promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion etc, imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration and statements conducing to public mischief of the IPC for which the maximum punishment is five years.
Other charges of injuring or defiling place of worship with the intent to insult the religion of any class entails maximum sentence of two years, while for the offence of deliberate and malicious acts intending to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs, carries a maximum penalty of a three-year jail term.
Besides Advani (89), Joshi (83) and Bharti (57), others who will face trial are Champat Rai Bansal, Satish Pradhan, Dharam Das, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Mahamadleshwar Jagdish Muni, Ram Bilas Vadanti, Vaikunth Lal Sharma and Satish Chandra Nagar.
Those who have since died include Bal Thackeray, Giriraj Kishore, Ashok Singhal and Paramhans Ram Chandra Das.
The top court said Kalyan Singh, who is currently the governor of Rajasthan and during whose tenure as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh the disputed structure was razed, is entitled to immunity under Constitution as long as he remains in gubernatorial position.
In the other case, charges framed against unknown karsevaks involve dacoity, which entails minimum 10 years jail or life imprisonment.
Other charges include robbery which entails a punishment of seven years, causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others and trespassing which carry two year and one year imprisonment.
The remaining charges are the same as that of the VIPs.
The court, in its 40-page judgement, termed the Allahabad high court’s February 12, 2001 verdict dropping conspiracy charge against Advani and others “erroneous”.
It said the high court had “clearly and unequivocally” held that a joint charge sheet was filed by CBI on the ground that all the offences were committed in the course of the same transaction to accomplish the alleged conspiracy.