Thursday, July 2, 2009

Liberhan Commission Report

The Liberhan Commission that was constituted some time after the incident, under the chairmanship of former Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh and Madras High Courts Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan, has severely indicted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders LK Advani, MM Joshi, the then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh and other leaders of the Sangh Parivar for the demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. The report has also come down very heavily on other leaders of the BJP, RSS, Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Shiv Sena for “actively” or “passively” supporting the demolition.

Others held responsible for the demolition include Uma Bharti, KS Sudarshan, Vinay Katiyar and Ashok Singhal. These senior leaders of the Sangh Parivar were fully aware of the intention of ‘kar sewaks’ to demolish the disputed structure, but preferred to feign ignorance of the same during the hearings.

The report was submitted to Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in the presence of Home Minister P Chidambaram. The Liberhan Commission has been the longest ever commission of inquiry that took 17 years to complete its job. During the inquiry it got 48 extensions.

Guilty of Lapses
The commission has clearly found Kalyan Singh and other Uttar Pradesh BJP leaders guilty of lapses in protecting the monument. The commission has also held the bureaucracy and other wings of the government guilty of conniving with the political executive to demolish the ancient structure.

The Liberhan Commission report, which runs into 1,000-odd pages in four volumes, has gone into the historical background of the dispute, tracing the sequence of events leading up to the demolition of the Babri mosque. It has also gone into ideological questions, besides commenting on the role of the civil service, the police as well as the media.

The delay is said to be due to the orders that the various political leaders had obtained from the Allahabad and other high courts staying the summons issued to them by the commission. Sources reveal that some of these orders are still operative and the commission was even directed not to draw any adverse inference because of the reluctance of the summoned witnesses to appear before the commission.

What is the Meaning of Probe?
The first question that is arising from all sides is: What is the meaning of such a probe when it took so much time to find out the reasons behind such a big incident, and the people involved in it? After its constitution, the commission was expected to submit its report in 1993, but it has been prepared after 48 extensions to its term, and it is hoped that it would be presented in the Parliament in the next parliamentary session. Among those whose testimony was recorded in this incident, Kalyan Singh, former state chief minister and BJP leader, and Uma Bharati of Madhya Pradesh are not in the BJP today. Former Prime Minister P. V. Narsimha Rao is not alive today. The political commitments of several other leaders have changed. Despite these changes, the discussion on this commission's report of an important incident will increase controversy.

Immediate Possibilities
There are no immediate possibilities of taking electoral benefit of it as the report has been submitted after the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, but the political parties like the Congress, BJP, and Samajwadi Party would not want to lag behind in taking political advantage of it. Even today, there is discussion about the role of the then Narsimha Rao Government in the incident, and Advani expressing regret about the incident after some time. It remains to be seen how near or far today's reactions are to the reality of incidents that occurred on that fateful day.

There were bomb explosions in Mumbai in 1993 after the incident, and an atmosphere of doubt and mistrust was created in society. In the political uproar that will inevitably follow the release of an inquiry report into what is still regarded by some as independent India’s most traumatic and divisive event, it is worth our while to pause and consider the extraordinary disservice that this delay has done to India’s politics and to our progress. The Government has to submit an Action Taken Report (ATR) on the report within the next six months. It is necessary that this incident does not have any serious impact on social and communal harmony in the country. When it took 17 years to probe the incident, punishing those guilty of demolition is certainly going to be a long-winding process.

About the Commission
The inquiry was set up by Narasimha Rao Government 10 days after the shameful demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 — an event which traumatised a shocked nation. Ironically, the order setting it up had stipulated that it would complete the inquiry “as soon as possible but not later than three months” and submit its report immediately thereafter. It was originally to submit its report by March 16, 1993.

The Commission, which began its effective sittings from January 1993, was kept in abeyance for two years because of certain interim orders passed by the Delhi High Court. It started regular hearing from 1995. It held its initial sittings in Lucknow and later shifted to Delhi.

It concluded the recording of evidence on January 22, 2003 and, after final arguments from counsel for the Centre, it could not proceed further as it was felt that examination of Kalyan Singh, was needed first. Singh, who was reluctant to adduce evidence, finally gave his version through counsel.

During 399-odd sittings, the mandate of the commission also included finding out the role played by Kalyan Singh, members of his council and other functionaries of the Government. It is learnt that the commission has held the then Uttar Pradesh Government guilty of failing to protect the monument that led to nationwide communal riots. The commission is also learnt to have found that the police set-up was manipulated to ensure no obstacle to those who had planned to bring down of the structure.

Major Findings of the Report

* Mobilisation of kar sewaks was organised and pre-planned.

* Crores of rupees collected for making demolition successful.

* RSS main force behind Ram Janam Bhoomi, but movement picked up after BJP joined.

* Demolition was carried out by a specially trained group of kar sewaks.

* The three-domed structure was pulled down from below and not from the top.

* Kalyan Singh, his ministers and handpicked bureaucrats provided complete support for demolition.

* The Uttar Pradesh Government misled the Centre and the Supreme Court on ground situation.

* Failed Central Government intelligence gathering also responsible.

* Media, especially photo journalists, attacked to destroy evidence.

Chronology of Events
The following are the milestones in the Babri Masjid demolition case:

December 6, 1992: First Information Report (FIR) 197/92 against unknown persons and 47 other cases registered at Ram Janma Bhoomi police station at Ayodhya. An FIR 198/92 also registered at Ram Janma Bhoomi police station.

December 13, 1992: The FIR 197/92, relating to conspiracy, communal frenzy and rioting, transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

August 27, 1993: The FIR 198/92, charge of conspiracy, did not figure in this case. It related to offences of inflammatory speeches, rioting, whipping up of communal frenzy, and 47 other cases transferred to the CBI.

October 5, 1993: A composite chargesheet filed by the CBI in both 197/92 and 198/92 cases against 40 accused in the Special Court of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Lucknow.

January 1, 1996: A supplementary chargesheet filed by the CBI against nine more persons in Lucknow court.

September 9, 1997: Charges framed against 49 accused by the Special Judge, Ayodhya Case, Lucknow. As many as 33 accused filed revision petition in Allahabad High Court.

February 2, 2001: Allahabad High Court upheld the order of September 9, 1997 of the Special Judge but held the notification of October 8, 1993 issued by the Uttar Pradesh Government in respect of case no. 198/92 setting up a Special Court defective as there was no consultation with the High Court for issuing it. Cognisance, committal and order on framing charges in respect of 198/92 cited as bad in law. The court held that the defect could be rectified by issuing fresh notification by the State Government.

June 16, 2001: The CBI requested the Uttar Pradesh Government to issue a fresh notification, curing the technical defect of having not consulted the High Court. The State Government did not issue a fresh notification to cure the defect neither did it file a Special Leave Petition (SLP), challenging the High Court order before the Supreme Court.

February to July 2002: Special Leave Petitions (SLP), pleading for issue of notification and revival of trial in the Ayodhya case, filed in the Supreme Court by Mohammad Aslam Bhure, Society for Justice, Kuldip Nayar and Mohammad Hashim.

September 2002: The Uttar Pradesh Government issued a notification specifying that Rae Bareli court would be the Special Court to try the case arising out of the FIR 198/92. This case, pending before the Lucknow court, will be transferred to Rae Bareli court.

November 2002: The Supreme Court upheld the Uttar Pradesh Government's notification on Rae Bareli Special Court.

May 31, 2003: The CBI filed a supplementary charge-sheet against L.K. Advani and seven others, including Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar and Ashok Singhal.

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