A special CBI court on Tuesday framed charges against BJP stalwarts L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti, along with nine other BJP leaders in connection with the Babri Masjid demolition case.
The charges were framed under section 120B (Punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code after the court rejected the defence counsel's "discharge application" in which the accused claimed not guilty in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
Earlier in the day, the CBI court granted bail to L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti after they appeared before it in connection with the Babri Masjid demolition case. Bail was also granted to BJP leader Vinay Katiyar, VHP's Vishnu Hari Dalmia and one-time Hindutva firebrand Sadhvi Ritambara, who also presented themselves before the court today.
All six were given bail on a personal bond of Rs 50,000 each by CBI Special judge S K Yadav.
They appeared before the court for framing of charges in the light of a Supreme Court order restoring the serious offence of criminal conspiracy against them.
The court, which is hearing two separate cases relating to the demolition of the 16th-century mosque, had granted bail to Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Mahant Ram Vilas Vedanti, Baikunth Lal Sharma alias Prem Ji, Champat Rai Bansal, Mahant Dharma Das and Satish Pradhan earlier this month in the second matter.
Hindutva leader Vedanti claimed that he was among those who had pulled down the disputed structure in Ayodhya.
"I was one of those who had pulled the dome down," Vedanti, who is here to appear before the special court in the Ayodhya case, told reporters.
Earlier, Advani met Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath after he arrived at the VVIP guest house here before leaving for the special court.
The chief minister welcomed Advani with a bouquet of flowers as the former deputy prime minister stopped at the VVIP guest house before leaving for the special court. Yogi was waiting at the guest house for Advani along with other state leaders.
Later, the chief minister held a meeting with Advani and other senior leaders.
Advani, the senior most leader in the BJP ranks, was received at the airport by his supporters and party leaders, including deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya.
Lucknow: CM Yogi Adityanath reaches VVIP guest house, he will meet LK Advani pic.twitter.com/Y5SIpoiyy4— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) May 30, 2017
Besides Advani, Bharti and Joshi, BJP leader Vinay Katiyar, VHP's Vishnu Hari Dalmia and one-time Hindutva firebrand Sadhvi Ritambara too presented themselves before the court in the politically sensitive case.
Special CBI judge S K Yadav had said on May 26 that no application for an adjournment or exemption from personal appearance would be entertained.
The court would also frame charges against Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Mahant Ram Vilas Vedanti, Baikunth Lal Sharma alias Prem Ji, Champat Rai Bansal, Mahant Dharma Das and Satish Pradhan in the second matter.
The special CBI court is hearing two separate cases relating to the demolition of the Babri masjid on December 6, 1991.
The Supreme Court had on April 19 ordered prosecution of Advani (89), Joshi (83), 58-year-old Bharti, and other accused for criminal conspiracy in the politically sensitive case. It had also ordered day-to-day trial to be concluded in two years.
The top court had called the destruction of the medieval-era monument a "crime" which shook the "secular fabric of the Constitution" while allowing the CBI's plea seeking restoration of criminal conspiracy charge against the four BJP leaders, including Katiyar (62), and others.
However, the Supreme Court had said BJP leader Kalyan Singh, who is the Rajasthan Governor and during whose tenure as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh the disputed structure was razed, is entitled to immunity under the Constitution as long as he holds the gubernatorial office.
It had transferred the case against Advani, Joshi, Bharti and three other accused from a Raebareli court to Lucknow for a joint trial in the demolition case.
(With PTI inputs)