A special court has acquitted senior leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, including a former deputy prime minister, 28 years after a Hindu mob demolished a centuries old mosque that triggered deadly riots killing thousands, according to a lawyer involved in the case.
The court in Lucknow, the capital of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, on Wednesday found no evidence against former deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani, BJP parliamentarians Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, and 29 other politicians and Hindu activists who were charged with criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and provoking riots.
Delivering his findings, judge Surendra Kumar Yadav said the demolition was not planned and some members of the crowds impulsively attacked the structure, IB Singh, a lawyer for one of the accused said over the phone.
“The court has said that there is no legal evidence to prove the charges. The court also did not find any evidence of a conspiracy.”
The verdict can be challenged in higher courts.
“The detailed 2,000 page judgment has rejected the CBI case that the demolition was a conspiracy and pre-planned,” BJP spokesman Nalin Kohli said in a text message.
Advani also hailed the judgment and said in a statement, “I now look forward to the completion of the beautiful Shri Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.”
Once the face of the BJP’s hard line Hindu nationalist agenda, Advani led a sustained campaign for decades to build a temple replacing the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, a town in the Hindi heartland state.