A high alert has been sounded across the state for Wednesday. While policemen in civil clothes will be on guard in Ayodhya, 2,000 cops will be deployed at the building that houses the “Ayodhya Prakaran Court” in the Old High Court building at Kaiserbagh here. Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel have been stationed in 25 sensitive districts.
If convicted, accused saffron veterans like LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar, Sadhvi Ritambhara, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Champat Rai Bansal, Ram Vilas Vedanti, Dharmadas and Dr Satish Pradhan would face maximum imprisonment up to five years.
Seventeen named accused, including Bal Thackeray, Ashok Singhal, Mahant Avaidyanath, Giriraj Kishore and Vijayaraje Scindia passed away during the course of the trial.
If former Uttar Pradesh CM Kalyan Singh, BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj and then Ayodhya district magistrate RN Srivastava are convicted, they may get maximum three years of jail term. The remaining accused, including BJP MPs Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and Lallu Singh and 17 others, are also facing charges under Section 395 (committing dacoity) which may invite life imprisonment if the court records their conviction.
In case BJP MPs Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, Lallu Singh and Sakshi Maharaj get two-year or a longer imprisonment term, their parliament membership may be in question. All the accused, if convicted, can move the high court to challenge the verdict.
There were 49 accused in the case apart from lakhs of kar sevaks named in two separate FIRs lodged at the Ram Janmabhoomi (RJB) police station on the day of the demolition. The CBI took over these FIRs when it began probing the case.
Additional district and session judge (Ayodhya matters), SK Yadav, who is hearing the case on a day-to-day basis since May 2017, had asked all the accused persons to be present in the court when he pronounces the judgment at 10am on Wednesday. However, sources told TOI that Advani, Uma Bharti, MM Joshi, Satish Pradhan and Mahant Nritya Gopal Das are unlikely to be present when their fate is decided. Their applications for exemption are likely to be moved by their counsel by 9am on Wednesday.
While Advani, Joshi and Pradhan are likely to seek exemption on the ground of old age, Bharti has been found Covid positive and admitted to a hospital in Uttarakhand. Nritya Gopal Das, too, tested Covid positive in Mathura when he was there for Janmashtami puja. Kalyan Singh, who was admitted to a Ghaziabad hospital after getting infected by the virus a few days ago, has reportedly reached Lucknow and is likely to be present in the court.
“The court can pronounce a judgment even in the absence of an accused facing trial. In such a condition, if it records conviction, the court may issue NBW seeking presence of the accused persons,” high court lawyer Arun Sinha told TOI.
Special judge Surendra Kumar Yadav, on May 30, 2017, had framed charges against Advani, Joshi, Bharti, Katiyar and Ritambhara for conspiracy under Section 120 B of IPC read with sections 147, 149, 153(a), 153(b) and 505(1)(b) of IPC.
Nritya Gopal, Vedanti, Bansal, Dharmadas and Pradhan are facing charges under Section 295 of IPC in addition to Sections 147, 149, 153(a), 153(b) and 505(1)(b).
There will be tight security in and around the special CBI court. The CBI and defence lawyers filed separately as many as 850 pages in their written arguments.
Wednesday’s verdict will be the last in the service period of special judge SK Yadav, whose tenure was extended by the Supreme Court as he retired on September 30, 2019, till delivery of the verdict by September 30, 2020.
Exactly 10 years ago — on September 30, 2010 — a three-judge bench of the Allahabad high court had delivered the verdict in the Ayodhya title suit, which was later challenged in Supreme Court.On Tuesday evening, Lucknow police commissioner Sujeet Pandey visited the court premises to take stock of the situation. “We are prepared. Special teams and routes have been chalked out to ferry the accused,” Pandey told TOI.
Police said only lawyers associated with the case and witnesses would be allowed entry into the court on Wednesday.
DGP (headquarters) will monitor sensitive districts like Varanasi, Prayagraj, Ayodhya, Kanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Aligarh and Mathura.