ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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One Cheer for the Court

The apex court’s order in the Babri Masjid case does not address systemic problems.

The Supreme Court has done the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a favour. It has ensured that the contentious issue of building a Ram temple on the site of the demolished Babri Masjid in Ayodhya remains alive. This was clearly not its intention when on 23 April it directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to ensure that the two 25-year-old cases—implicating top leaders of the BJP, including L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti, in a conspiracy to destroy the 16th-century Babri Masjid, and the kar sevaks who participated in its destruction—are clubbed together and heard expeditiously in a Lucknow court. But, the unintended outcome is likely to be that a resurgent BJP will use the case to keep this communally volatile issue simmering, and thereby consolidate Hindu votes in the run-up to the 2019 general elections.

Apart from this wholly unintended sleight of hand, how should we assess the significance of the apex court’s directive? On 6 December 1992, hundreds of kar sevaks clambered over the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and carried out their plan to destroy it in full view of the police, the press and cheering politicians. The two first information reports that were filed, against Advani and others, and against “lakhs of unknown kar sevaks,” have come to nothing as the cases crawled through multiple hearings, adjournments and challenges only to remain virtually in the same place. The legal trajectory of these two cases has emphasised, yet again, the deep rot in our criminal justice system. Still, in one sense, the apex court’s order is an important intervention. By asking the CBI to club together the two cases, thus far being heard separately in Raebareli and Lucknow, and ensure that there are no unnecessary adjournments, or changes of judge, and that there is a judgment within two years, the court has acknowledged these systemic problems.

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Updated On : 28th Aug, 2017

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