Nearly three decades after the Babri Masjid — a 16th century mosque in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya — was demolished in an event that changed the country’s political and social landscape, a special CBI court in Lucknow will deliver judgement on 32 accused, including BJP veterans LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. Senior BJP leader Uma Bharti and former Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh (who was Chief Minister at the time) are on that list as well. Mr Advani, Mr Joshi and Ms Bharati — key BJP leaders at the time — are accused of conspiracy that led to the demolition of the mosque in December 1992. More than 3,000 people were killed in the communal riots that followed.
Here is a timeline of key events that led up to today’s verdict:
December 6, 1992
The mosque is pulled down by “kar sevaks“, or activists allegedly incited by speeches from senior BJP figures of the time, including LK Advani. Two criminal cases were filed — one against “lakhs” of kar sevaks and another against eight people including Mr Advani, Mr Joshi and Ms Bharti, accusing them of promoting religious enmity and provoking riots. Ultimately, a total of 49 FIRs (First Information Reports) were filed in the case.
September 8, 1993
The UP government commits all cases – except the one involving BJP and VHP leaders – to a special court in Lucknow. FIR 198 – the case involving the leaders – was moved to a court in the state’s Rae Bareli district.
The CBI files a single consolidated chargesheet against 48 accused and includes the late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and Kalyan Singh ( and other prominent religious and political leaders ). On October 8, the UP government amends its earlier order so all the cases can be heard by the same Lucknow court. In 1996, the CBI files a supplementary chargesheet naming LK Advani and the other BJP, VHP leaders in FIR 198.
September 9, 1997
The Lucknow court orders framing of charges for “criminal conspiracy” against all accused. The charges were read with other sections for promoting religious enmity and provocation with intent to cause riots. The court said that all offences had been committed in the “same transaction” and so warranted a joint trial.
February 12, 2001
The Allahabad High Court says the October 1993 notification that said all cases, including the one involving the BJP, VHP leaders, could be heard by the same court is invalid. The High Court further says that the special court’s framing of charges in 1997 was “without jurisdiction”.
The Lucknow court drops proceedings against 21 accused, including Mr Advani, Mr Joshi, Ms Bharti and Mr Thackeray. The trial in FIR 198 — which involved these and other BJP, VHP leaders — shifts back to the Rae Bareli court.
After the UP government turned down a request by the CBI to rectify jurisdiction defects in the October 8, 1993 notification, the investigative agency files a supplementary chargesheet against Mr Advani, Mr Joshi, Ms Bharti and others in the Rae Bareli court. The chargesheet, however, does not include “criminal conspiracy”.
May 22, 2010
The Allahabad High Court upholds the May 2001 decision of the Lucknow court to drop proceedings against 21 accused. The court says there were two classes of accused – the political leaders and the “kar sevaks“. The court also says accusations of “criminal conspiracy” against eight accused in FIR 198 was never spelled out.
April 19, 2017
The Supreme Court transfers proceedings in the main case – involving Mr Advani and the others – from the Rae Bareli court back to the Lucknow court. Ordering daily hearings to settle the matter, the top court directed charges of “criminal conspiracy” against Mr Advani and others be brought back and a judgement to be delivered within two years.
Mr Advani, Ms Bharti, Mr Joshi and other key accused appear before the Lucknow court.
The special judge for the Lucknow court seeks an additional six months to conclude the trial; the Supreme Court’s two-year deadline expired earlier in the year. The following month the top court extends the tenure of the special judge and sets a fresh nine-month deadline for the trial.
With the second deadline also having come and gone, the Supreme Court asks the Lucknow court special judge to deliver his verdict by August.
Ms Bharti, Mr Advani, Mr Singh and Mr Joshi all record statements before the Lucknow court. Speaking to NDTV at that time, Ms Bharti said: “If I am sent to the gallows, I will be blessed. The place where I was born will be happy.”
The Lucknow court, which received a fourth extension in August, fixes September 30 as the date for the verdict in the Babri Masjid demolition case.