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Appeal sets stage for replays

Lucknow, Sept. 30: Allahabad High Court’s stay on framing of charges against human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi today might once again delay the trial of senior BJP and VHP leaders in the Babri Masjid demolition case.

Emboldened by the relief given to Joshi, VHP president Ashok Singhal, too, has decided to file a criminal revision petition against the September 19 verdict. The CBI’s special Rae Bareli court had ordered framing of charges against Joshi and six others.

Justice Y.R. Tripathi of the Lucknow bench, who admitted Joshi’s revision petition today, recalled the case files from the Rae Bareli court. He ordered that the charges against the minister would not be framed till the disposal of his appeal. The petition will be heard on November 4.

Although the court stayed proceedings against Joshi alone, recall of the Rae Bareli court records means that framing of charges against the six other accused might also not be possible on October 10 — the date fixed by the Rae Bareli court — legal experts said.

The respite would enable the others to approach the court. Singhal’s statement in Lucknow today indicated that all the remaining accused — Singhal, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar, Giriraj Kishore, Vishnu Hari Dalmia and Sadhvi Ritambhara — will appeal.

Singhal said the ruling in Joshi’s case had opened the doors for “other leaders to knock at the gates of the Allahabad High Court in search of justice”. The VHP president added that there was no case against them as the FIR did not contain any specific charges.

Although he said the revision petition would be filed collectively, Singhal did not clarify whether it would also include the two BJP state presidents.

Asked to comment on Joshi’s resignation drama, Singhal said today’s stay order had made the Prime Minister’s task easy. “The high court verdict has come to the rescue of the Prime Minister from taking an unpleasant decision in the matter of Joshi.”

But he added that had Vajpayee been sincere, he could have paved the way for temple construction in Ayodhya.

Reiterating his demand for a law, Singhal said the Prime Minister was capable of evolving a consensus, especially after the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) confirmed the existence of a temple at the site.

“But the inaction on the part of the Prime Minister towards this end only exposed his doublespeak,” the VHP leader alleged. Branding the BJP a “party of hypocrites”, he said it talked about the temple only during elections and not in Parliament where there was need to hammer it the most.

Spelling out the VHP’s plan, he said the organisation would hold conclaves in Lucknow and Delhi on October 15 and in Ayodhya on October 17, where over 3 lakh participants would gather.

Singhal, however, said the state government need not worry about the conclave, which would be peaceful. No coercive measures should be taken by the government as that would be counterproductive, the VHP leader warned.

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