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Video cassettes, footages of demolition neither sealed nor examined at forensic labs, says Court

Lucknow: Video cassettes or footages, allegedly pertaining to the demolition of disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri masjid structure at Ayodhya, were neither sealed nor sent to forensic laboratories by the CBI to ascertain their veracity, a Special CBI court at Lucknow said on Wednesday.

Special CBI Judge S K Yadav, who acquitted all the 32 accused in the case, including BJP veterans L K Advani and MM Joshi, analyzed the video, audio evidence and the news reports of several newspapers to examine the charge of criminal conspiracy invoked by the CBI against the high-profile accused in the 28-year-old politically-sensitive case.

In the 2,300-page verdict, the judge lent credence to the testimonies of various witnesses and said that journalists from all over the world wanted to get associated with the coverage of the December 6, 1992 incident.

It noted that every news which is there in electronic and print media is not "necessarily correct" and said that whatever "video cassettes or footages" the CBI received during the investigation of the case were neither found in a sealed state by the probe agency nor sealed by the investigators.

Several video cassettes, audio evidence and news reports were used as evidence in the case to buttress the arguments that there was a deep-rooted conspiracy on the part of several leaders to bring the structures down.

However, the court recorded the finding that none of the video cassettes or footages were sent to forensic laboratories to ascertain whether they were tampered or not.

The special court also recorded that the video cassettes provided by the then director of Delhi Doordarshan were included in the records without any forensic tests.

In 1992, private news channels were not there and the video-recording of any event was prepared commercially for selling in the market, it noted.

Some of the video cassettes played in the courtroom had commercials and contained incidents or events from other places also which indicated they were edited ones, it said.

This is correct to say that no object related to the incident of demolition of the structure has been recovered from any of the accused, it said, adding that the news reports compiled from various newspapers on the issue were not authenticated.

During investigation, no person came and testified that he was involved in the demolition of the disputed structure and this is also correct to state that nobody said during the probe that he got excited from the speeches of leaders and took part in the demolition, the verdict noted.

The court also said that there is no evidence on record to show that the accused had conspired to demolish the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992. Referring to the evidence furnished by the CBI and statements of witnesses, the court said none of these show that the accused had assembled and planned any such act before the incident took place on December 6, 1992.

Court said that vandals were responsible for demolition of the disputed structure and it was the volunteers of the RSS and the VHP who handled the situation.

The court, in its judgement, said that such 'kar sevaks' (volunteers) who were unruly and rowdy can never be called 'Ram bhakts' (disciples of Lord Ram) because their actions adversely affected the secular fabric of the nation and it also compelled the Supreme Court to make certain observations in its November 2019 judgment.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) handled the situation and directions were being given by them. They had made seating arrangements for women, senior citizen and reporters, the CBI court said.

The disruption was caused by a different group of kar sevaks who were vandals, it said. Veteran BJP leaders L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, the then Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh, former Union minister Uma Bharti, Ram Janmaboomi Teerth Kshetra Trust president Nritya Gopal Das and Shiv Sena leader Satish Pradhan were among the accused.

The 16th century mosque was demolished on December 6, 1992 by 'kar sevaks' who believed that it occupied the site where Lord Ram was born. The destruction triggered riots that left hundreds dead in the country. Twenty-six of the 32 accused were present in the court when special Judge S K Yadav read out the operative portion of the verdict, an exercise which took five minutes.

Referring to the statements given by several witnesses in the case, the court said they have not testified about the involvement of any of the accused persons in the razing of structure. It added that there were contradictions in the statements of some witnesses before the court and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The court also said there is no evidence to show that the accused had voluntarily caused hurt to deter any public servant from discharging his duty.

The verdict comes less than a year after the Supreme Court's historic judgement in the related Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute that paved the way for the construction of a temple at the Ayodhya site. The apex court verdict had called the demolition an "egregious violation of the rule of law." The CBI produced 351 witnesses and 600 documents as evidence. Charges were framed against 48 people, but 16 have died during the course of the trial. It had argued that the accused conspired and instigated 'kar sevaks' to demolish the mosque.

The accused pleaded innocence, maintaining that there was no evidence to prove their guilt and they were victims of political vendetta by the then Congress government at the Centre.

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