Babri Demolition Trial: Murli Manohar Joshi Deposes, Pleads Innocence

The senior BJP leader accused the then Congress government of falsely implicating him and called the CBI's witnesses 'liars'.

Lucknow: Deposing in the Babri Masjid demolition case, veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi on Thursday asserted before a special CBI court that he was innocent and implicated in the case by the then Congress government at the Centre.

The 86-year-old leader made his statement under Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code through a video conference to the court of special judge S.K. Yadav, who is holding the trial in the case.

Former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani, 92, is also slated to depose before the Lucknow court through video links from New Delhi on Friday.

In his deposition to the court, Joshi accused the then Central government of falsely implicating him out of political vendetta.

He also refuted the prosecution evidence saying they all were “false and inspired by political reasons”.

The entire investigation was conducted under political influence and he was charged on the basis of false and fabricated evidence, Joshi told the court.

At this, the judge asked him why then the prosecution witnesses have deposed against him and Joshi retorted that all the witnesses are liars. They have deposed due to political reasons and under the influence of police, he claimed.

During the court proceeding, the court posed as many as 1,050 questions to Joshi and he replied to each one of them.

As the judge sought Joshi’s comment over various pieces of evidence led by the CBI on the basis of different video clippings and newspaper cuttings, the former Union human resource development minister said the entire evidence is “false and fabricated”.

During the proceeding, judge Yadav apprised Joshi of the statement of a CBI witness, in which he had averred that Kalyan Singh was sworn in as Uttar Pradesh chief minister on June 25, 1991, and went to the Ram Janmabhoomi site in Ayodhya the next day along with his cabinet colleagues.

Also read: The Political Undertones of Choosing August 5 for Ayodhya Ram Temple ‘Bhoomi Pujan’

The judge told Joshi that, according to the CBI witness, Kalyan Singh had pledged for building the temple at the very place, chanting Ram lalla hum aayenge, mandir yahi banayenge (Lord Ram, we will come and make the temple here itself).

The judge then asked Joshi to explain the statement of the CBI witness.

Joshi replied that it was true that Kalyan Singh had gone to Ayodhya but, he said, the rest of the averment of the prosecution witness was false.

The judge also showed Joshi a photograph taken on June 26, 1991, at the Ram Janmabhoomi premises, in which he is seen standing with the then Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh and asked the BJP leader to explain it.

Joshi dubbed the photograph as fake, pointing out that there was no negative of the photograph on the CBI records.

The photograph was handed over by one Swapna Das Gupta to the CBI during the investigation.

The judge also referred to many newspaper reports on alleged statements of Advani and Shiv Sena’s late chief Bala Saheb Thackeray on the Ram Janmabhoomi issue and sought Joshi’s response to them.

Joshi asserted that the relevant news items were false and were made part of the investigation by the CBI due to political malice and ideological differences.

Joshi told the court that he would present evidence in his defence at the appropriate stage of the trial.

After Joshi completed his deposition to the court, judge Yadav asked his office to send a copy of his statement to the CBI in New Delhi.

The CBI will then get Joshi’s statement signed by him in New Delhi and send it back to the court in Lucknow.

The court recorded Joshi’s statement in the presence of his counsel Vimal Kumar Srivastava, K.K. Mishra and Abhishek Ranjan.

The counsel for prosecution agency CBI, Lalit Singh, R.K. Yadav and P. Chakravarti too were present in the court during its proceeding.

The court is presently at the stage of recording the evidence of various accused, totalling 32, in the Babri mosque demolition trial after examination of the prosecution witnesses.

A photograph of the Babri Masjid from the early 1900s. Copyright: The British Library Board

At this stage of the trial, an accused gets the opportunity to refute the prosecution evidence against him.

The mosque in Ayodhya was demolished on December 6, 1992, by ‘kar sevaks‘ who claimed that an ancient Ram temple existed at the same site.

Advani and Joshi were among the BJP leaders, spearheading the Ram Janmabhoomi temple movement at that time.

The court is conducting a day-to-day hearing in the case to complete its trial by August 31 as directed by the Supreme Court.

BJP leader and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharti had appeared in person earlier this month before the court to make her deposition in the case.

In her testimony, she too had accused the then Congress government at the Centre of implicating her in the case due to political vendetta.

Another senior BJP leader and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh too in his deposition to the court on July 13 had accused the then Congress government at the Centre of levelling “false and baseless allegations” against him in the Babri mosque demolition case.

Singh, during whose tenure as UP CM the mosque in Ayodhya was demolished, had said that he was falsely implicated in the case.