The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Babri court cover rollback sparks uproar

Lucknow, Dec. 28: The Mayavati government has downgraded security cover to the Lucknow special court handling the Babri demolition case and plans to shift it to the district court complex housing other criminal courts.

Financial constraints and the fact that the case against deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and other VIPs have been taken away from the court have been touted as reasons.

A contingent of six policemen used to guard the special court premises on the entire third floor of a building on Ring Road, which had been specially rented at a monthly charge of Rs 40,000.

With the withdrawal of security last week, there is none to guard the premises, where records of all demolition cases — including case no. 198 against Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and six other top BJP-VHP leaders — are kept.

The move has evoked protest from the presiding officer of the court, Justice Shrikant Shukla, who fears the case records might be destroyed or tampered with.

In a letter to the state’s principal secretary, home, the judge has said that security on the court premises is necessary as two quintals of documents and over 100 videotapes containing footage of the demolition are kept there.

Home secretary Dipti Vilas declined comment but denied any political motivation.

Babri Masjid Action Committee leader Zafaryab Jilani said the Lucknow court had ceased to have jurisdiction in the conspiracy case (no. 198) against Advani and seven others, but the papers relating to the case were still in its possession.

“The papers would be transferred to the Rae Bareli special court — revived by Mayavati on September 29 — only after the CBI files a chargesheet in that court in accordance with the Supreme Court’s verdict,” Jilani said.

He feared that the move had exposed valuable documentary and audio-visual evidence to tampering and theft by anti-social elements.

“Even a short circuit might see the records gutted since there is no permanent telephone line or fire fighting equipment in the premises,” he said.

Shukla refused to comment, but his family confirmed that his personal security had also been withdrawn.

“He has been advised a brisk walk in the morning. But he can’t go out without a guard in view of threats he has received from fundamentalist organisations after his judgment of May 6, 2001,” said a relative.

Shukla had discharged not only Advani and his group implicated in case no. 198, but also let off 13 others, including Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and former chief minister Kalyan Singh.

The Lucknow special court has had little to do after its May 2001 order. Legally, it retains jurisdiction to try case no. 197 against the kar sevaks and their collaborators, but the CBI and some remaining accused have gone to the high court against the May 2001 order.

“The high court recalled the files in June 2001 and the trial in case no. 197 has come to stand still since then,” says I.B. Singh, a lawyer.

Shukla’s security was withdrawn last year also. But it was restored after he made a special request, his relatives said. “Now that the Mayavati government has downgraded priority to Ayodhya trials, there seems little chance of restoring it,” they added.

Shukla is on long leave and retires on December 31.

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