Rae Bareli, July 30: The Ayodhya trial got off the ground here with the CBI screening video films that did not show any of the eight accused, including deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, delivering inflammatory speeches.
The CBI this morning showed three video cassettes and played an audio cassette to special judge V.K. Singh in his chamber.
CBI counsel S.S. Gandhi later said outside the court that the cassettes did not contain individual speeches of the accused. “All the eight accused persons, along with others, were seen on stage. But the video cassettes did not show them giving any speech.”
However, Gandhi added that “we have oral evidence against all the eight accused”.
Legal experts said the video and audio cassettes, though admissible in court, are not considered as clinching evidence. “This is not conclusive evidence. It only has a corroborative value and must be supported by independent witnesses and other material evidence,” Delhi High Court lawyer Sanjay Mann said.
The CBI chargesheet has accused the eight of inciting kar sevaks who pulled down the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. Besides Advani, the accused are his cabinet colleague Murli Manohar Joshi, BJP MPs Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar and four Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders.
The CBI chargesheet, filed in the Rae Bareli court in May this year, alleges that the leaders “by their provocative speeches were provocating/inciting the kar sevaks by slogans like ‘ek dhakka aur do, Babri Masjid tor do’.”
The speeches were laced with “indications to demolish the disputed structure”, the chargesheet adds. The CBI charges carry a prison term of three years.
The three video cassettes showed events that took place on December 5, on the day of the demolition and the following day. The audio cassette carries a voice which the CBI has claimed as that of Sadhvi Ritambhara, Uma Bharti’s lawyer Kunwar Mridul Rakesh said.
The screening started at 11 am and went on for more than an hour-and-a-half. It is not known whether these are the only cassettes the CBI has in the case against Advani.
Lawyers who have argued the Ayodhya cases since the beginning said that there were more than 55 cassettes covering various aspects of the demolition.
Rakesh said the cassette purportedly capturing the December 5 events was not of use in today’s case, but the one said to be of December 6 showed Advani, Joshi and others arriving near the mosque site at 10.45 am. The kar sevaks had also gathered there in huge numbers.
By 11.55 am, the police had cordoned off the area. Rakesh said there was no shot of any person speaking from the platform. “What we could hear was a voice saying ‘oopar mat jao’ (don’t go up) and then slogans like ‘give one more push and demolish the mosque’ followed,” Rakesh said.
“The cassettes belie the oral evidence relied upon by the CBI,” the advocate said. Rakesh cast aspersions on the authenticity of the cassettes, saying they had no identification marks.
The cassettes courted controversy in the morning when the local lawyers’ association said they should be screened in open court.
Later, judge Singh said in an order that he decided to have the screening in his chamber due to the “sensitive nature” of the case. He exempted all the accused from personal appearance in the court today as well as tomorrow. The defence arguments will continue tomorrow.
A large number of policemen had encircled the court complex as people had thronged the area hoping to see the Ayodhya footage.