A special CBI court in Lucknow completed on Tuesday the recording of statements of the accused in the 1992 Babri mosque demolition case.
Deposing before CBI special judge SK Yadav through video conferencing from Thane in Maharashtra, former Shiv Sena MP Satish Pradhan claimed that he was falsely implicated in the case due to political vendetta and maintained that he was completely innocent. Of the 32 accused in the case, Pradhan was the penultimate on the list.
The judge separated the case against the last accused Om Prakash Pandey, who is not traceable as his family told the CBI that he had become a monk 15-16 years ago and did not return home since then. The court has already declared him an absconder and has initiated proceedings to attach his property.
It inferred from a CBI report that Pandey was neither traceable nor was there any possibility of him being traced in the near future. The court, however, directed the CBI to produce him if he is nabbed. The court separated Pandey's file, as otherwise the trial proceedings would have to be halted.
Since the court has to conclude the trial by August 31, 2020, in compliance with a Supreme Court order, it took the decision. As the proceedings under Section 313 of CrPC were completed on Tuesday, during which they got an opportunity to record their statement, the court has now fixed July 30 to enable the accused to furnish their defence, including producing witnesses to support their contention.
After the exercise is over, final arguments will be held followed by the judgement of the court. The special court has been recording the statements of the accused since July 4 under section 313 of CrPC.
The mosque in Ayodhya was demolished on December 6, 1992 by 'kar sevaks' who claimed that an ancient Ram temple stood at the same site. Former deputy prime minister LK Advani and BJP veteran MM Joshi, who were among those leading the Ram temple movement at that time, had deposed last week through video conferencing.
The court has also recorded statements of BJP stalwarts like Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti, both of whom appeared in person. Advani's statement was recorded barely days before the groundbreaking event on August 5 for a Ram temple at Ayodhya.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other political leaders, including Advani, have been invited to attend the event. Last year, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court had ruled that the 2.77 acre land claimed by both Hindus and Muslims would be handed over to a government-run trust for the building of a temple.
The court had also announced allocation of a five-acre plot at another site in Ayodhya to build a mosque.