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Ayodhya case: Conspiracy charges framed against Advani, Joshi & Bharti

BJP veterans L K Advani, M M Joshi, Union minister Uma Bharti and nine others will stand trial for criminal conspiracy in the 1992 Babri mosque demolition case, with a special CBI court here on Tuesday framing charges against them.

The trial under the serious criminal conspiracy charge will commence against them after having been dropped by the trial court in 2001. The verdict was upheld by the Allahabad High Court in 2010.
The Supreme Court had ordered restoration of the conspiracy charge against them on April 19.

The charges were framed against Advani (89), Joshi (83), Bharti (58), BJP MP Vinay Katiyar (62), VHP's Vishnu Hari Dalmiya (89) and one-time Hindutva firebrand Sadhvi Rithambara (53) -- all of whom appeared before the court.

All six were granted bail by CBI special judge S K Yadav on a personal bond of Rs 50,000 each after rejecting the CBI's opposition to their bail plea. The court will resume hearing to
The accused, who spent nearly three hours in the court, had sought discharge for the offence of criminal conspiracy, which the judge rejected.

The charge of conspiracy is in addition to the existing charges against them for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion for which they are already facing trial.

The apex court had while restoring the charge of criminal conspiracy, directed clubbing of two cases relating to the demolition. The court had also ordered that the trial is concluded in two years. Besides the six, conspiracy charges were also framed against Ramvilas Vedanti, Baikunth Lal Sharma, Champat Rai Bansal, Mahant Nritya Gopaldas, Dharam Das and Satish Pradhan — all of whom were allegedly present when the 16th-century structure in Ayodhya was pulled down on December 6, 1992.

Judge Yadav passed two orders — one for grant of bail and the other for framing of charges.

The accused are also facing charges of having made assertions "prejudicial to national integration and injuring or defiling a place of worship".

The other charges against them include indulging in "deliberate and malicious" acts intended to outrage religious feelings, uttering statements leading to public mischief, rioting and unlawful assembly.

The maximum punishment upon conviction after the restoration of the conspiracy charge could be up to five years in jail or a fine or both, according to a lawyer who attended the proceedings.
The counsel for the accused argued against the framing of charges and pleaded not guilty, saying they had no role in the razing of the mosque.

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