The court in Lucknow, the capital of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, on Wednesday found no evidence against former deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani, BJP parliamentarians Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, and 29 other politicians and Hindu activists who were charged with criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and provoking riots.
Delivering his findings, judge Surendra Kumar Yadav said the demolition was not planned and some members of the crowds impulsively attacked the structure, I.B. Singh, a lawyer for one of the accused said over the phone.
“The court has said that there is no legal evidence to prove the charges. The court also did not find any evidence of a conspiracy.”
The verdict can be challenged in higher courts. There was no immediate comment on the verdict by the BJP’s spokespersons.
Once the face of the BJP’s hard line Hindu nationalist agenda, Advani led a sustained campaign for decades to build a temple replacing the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, a town in the Hindi heartland state. The 92-year-old and other senior leaders are no longer involved in the active decision making process in the BJP -- which is now steered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his close aides.
The ruling will further deepen religious polarization in the world’s largest democracy. In August last year, the Modi government ended seven decades of autonomy for the only Muslim-majority state of Jammu & Kashmir, in November the country’s top court handed the disputed land at Ayodhya to Hindu groups to build a temple, and in December the government brought in a citizenship law that discriminate against Muslims.
Protests and riots followed across the country between December and February. On the first anniversary of the decision on Jammu and Kashmir, Modi this year laid the foundation stone for the temple in Ayodhya.
The top court’s November verdict said the act of the destruction of the temple was calculated and against the law but did not pin charges as it was deciding a civil dispute over ownership of land. The criminal case went on separately.