The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani plea for court absence struck down

Rae Bareli, April 16: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and seven others accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case today failed to appear before the special court in Rae Bareli as it resumed hearing the case after over a decade.

Special judge V.K. Singh refused to accept a request by the accused for a permanent waiver regarding their presence in court. He ordered all of them to be present at the next hearing on April 26. This means that Advani, Union minister Murli Manohar Joshi, former Union minister Uma Bharti and VHP president Ashok Singhal will have to attend the court proceedings on April 26.

The district authorities had made elaborate arrangements for the security of the accused ó four of whom enjoy Z security status. The court premises were shifted for more space and barricades were erected around the area.

The special judge also asked CBI to present an updated report on the case and all relevant documents on the April 26 hearing.

The Rae Bareli special court has taken up case no. 198 of 1992 nearly 10 years after it was shifted to Lucknow special court through a government notification.

The Lucknow special court was about to frame charges against the accused in a combined chargesheet involving case no. 197 and 198 when an Allahabad High Court bench ruled in 2001 that the notification shifting case 198 from the Rae Bareli court was defective.

Following the high courtís verdict, the Lucknow court discharged not only Advani and the others named in case no. 198, but also 13 accused in the combined chargesheet on the ground that their offences were similar to those in case 198.

The others included former Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh and Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas chief Ramchandradas Paramhans.

While Muslim organisations and some political parties had demanded the Uttar Pradesh government to issue another notification to allow the continuation of the trial, the Mayavati government had refused to do so last November.

Aslam Khan Bhure, a litigant, had also agitated on the Supreme Court premises asking the court to direct Mayavati to issue a fresh notification.

On November 26, the apex court had endorsed the Mayavati governmentís stand and held that the CBI was free to move against Advani and the others in the Rae Bareli special court.

As the Supreme Court admitted another petition by Bhure to review its November 2002 verdict, the CBI moved the Rae Bareli special court ó which had been revived through a high court notification in November last yearó to resume the trial of case no. 198.

Taking cognisance of the CBIís application, the Rae Bareli special court then issued summons to the accused on March 29 and asked them to appear before it today. When the trial started today, two senior advocates appearing for the accused moved an application seeking their exemption from personal appearance.

Counsels Kunwar Mridul Rakesh and Mahipal Ahluwalia told the court that the accused were seeking exemption because of the heavy public duties they had to discharge. They assured that the accused were prepared to come to the court within 24 hours if the court so desired at any stage of the trial.

While condoning the absence of the accused today, the court rejected their plea for permanent waiver and asked all the eight accused to be present in the court on April 26.

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