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Babri label blows up in CBI face

Advani

New Delhi, Feb. 7: The Supreme Court today snubbed the CBI for terming the Babri Masjid demolition a “national crime” and wondered how the agency could drag its feet for two years if it considered the case to be of “national importance”.

The court was seeking to drive home the point that an investigating agency cannot pre-judge the issue and attach labels to cases.

BJP veteran L.K. Advani and several other party leaders are facing prosecution over the demolition in 1992.

“Mr P.P. Rao, till we decide the case one way or the other, you cannot make such statement that it is a national crime and the matter is of national importance. Till this court or the trial court decides the case, we can’t be calling it a national crime,” Justice H.L. Dattu, heading a two-judge bench, observed during a hearing.

The apex court made the observation after senior counsel Rao, appearing for the CBI, contended that the trial relating to the 1992 demolition should be expedited.

“We want the trial to be expedited. The incident had occurred in 1992, today we are in 2013. It is more than a decade. The incident is very serious. It is a national crime and is a matter of national importance,” Rao told the bench that included Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

The observation was made while the court was dealing with a CBI special leave petition (SLP) challenging the concurrent judgments of the CBI special court and Allahabad High Court which had dropped the “conspiracy” charges against BJP leaders Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar and several others.

However, the two courts had said that other charges against the BJP leaders would continue in a Rae Bareli court.

When senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for Advani and another senior BJP leader Joshi, pointed out that the CBI was filing the petition after two years of delay, Justice Dattu asked Rao to furnish the reasons for the delay.

“You (the CBI) just said it is a case of national importance, then how can you say that translation of records takes days and filing of the case takes such a long time?”

When the court asked Venugopal’s views on the CBI’s plea to condone the delay, the senior counsel opposed. “This (appeal) is purely a political conspiracy to carry out a political agenda. This is also a case of gross negligence by the CBI in filing the appeal at a such belated stage,” Venugopal said.

Normally, a special leave petition appealing a court order should be filed within 90 days. However, the court has the discretion to decide if the delay can be condoned.

The apex court also rejected the CBI’s plea to file a fresh affidavit to explain its reason for filing the SLP late. “Mr Rao, we make it clear that we will not permit you to file any fresh affidavit,” the bench observed, posting the matter for further hearing next week.