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CBI revives Babri case against Advani

Lucknow, Feb. 23: The CBI has finally decided to begin prosecution of L.K. Advani and 20 others in the Babri Masjid demolition case in the Rae Bareli special court.

It has moved a petition in the court of Lucknow district sessions judge J.M. Paliwal, seeking permission to begin prosecution of Advani and the others in case 198 in the special court set up for the purpose through a government notification of 1993. The plea will be heard on February 26.

The CBI has also sought permission to shift records related to the case to the Rae Bareli court. The records are presently with the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court, which had summoned the case file after the CBI moved a revision petition against the Lucknow special courtís order discharging Advani and the others.

The move is being seen as a bid to pre-empt hearing of a petition in the Supreme Court, seeking a review of the apex courtís November 2002 order endorsing Mayavatiís refusal to issue a fresh notification enabling continuance of the trial in the Lucknow special court.

The court had held that the CBI was free to begin prosecution in the Rae Bareli special court.

The review petition by Mohammed Aslam alias Bhure, scheduled to come up before a three-judge bench next month, says the apex court had overlooked the fact that while the trial in the Lucknow court had reached an advanced stage, the one in Rae Bareli would have to start afresh.

CBI sources said the application for permission to prosecute Advani and the others in the Rae Bareli court was filed in the Lucknow special court on Friday. ďIt came up before the Lucknow district judge because the Lucknow special court is presently vacant after the retirement of Justice Shrikant Shukla on December 21,Ē said an official.

Originally, the CBI had filed a joint chargesheet against 49 accused in the two Babri Masjid demolition cases (cases 197 and 198) in the Lucknow special court.

But in 2001, Allahabad High Court quashed prosecution of Advani and the others on the ground that the notification transferring case 198 to the Lucknow special court was defective as the high courtís permission was not sought before issuing it.

The high court held that the government could get around the flaw by issuing a fresh notification, but Mayavati refused. Later, her government told the Supreme Court that a special court has been set up at Rae Bareli to revive the case and the court accepted its plea.

Significantly, after the CBI moved the Lucknow special court in October 1993, the Rae Bareli special court has been lying defunct and all the records were transferred to Lucknow. Mayavati revived it through a court notification just before the Supreme Courtís November 2002 order.

By seeking transfer of the case records to the Rae Bareli court and beginning prosecution of Advani and others there, the CBI intends to tell the apex court when it takes up Bhureís review petition that its order has been complied with.

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