Not Just Criminal Conspiracy

Raman Swamy

A closer look at the specific charges that have been framed against the accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case gives a deeper understanding of the full dimensions of the crime that was committed 25 years ago on December 8, 1992.

The question is not only whether L K Advani and his co-accused had entered into a criminal conspiracy to destroy the Babri Masjid.

It is also whether they are guilty of committing malicious acts to cause public mischief and outrage religious sentiments.
It is also whether they deliberately provoked riots, promoted enmity among religious groups and knowingly defiled a place of worship.

Each of the five different sections of the Indian Penal Code that have been invoked by the special CBI court has its own legal implications and ramifications.

Once the trial begins and arguments are heard in the day-to-day hearings over the next two years, the evidence for each one of the separate charges will have to be weighed in the judicial balance carefully, painstakingly and with attention to microscopic details.

In other words, this is not just a general overall assessment to decide whether Lal Krishna Advani and his co-accused had been involved in a criminal conspiracy to destroy the physical structure of the mosque.

It is not just a broad-sweep evaluation of the evidence about a conspiracy alone.

The accused have been charged under IPC section 120B (Punishment of criminal conspiracy) read with 153 (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 153 A, 295 (Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class), 295 A and 505 (Statements conducing to public mischief.

Each of these Sections relates to sharp focused crimes.

Section 153 deals with “wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot”. It says that whoever wantonly or malignantly incites or provokes any person to do anything which could lead to rioting, shall be punished with imprisonment of one year, or with fine, or both.

Section 153 A refers to “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion”. This can be found to have been done “by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise”. Or it can be done by committing “any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious groups”.

Significantly, the same section also spells out another method of disturbing public peace –”organising any exercise, movement, drill or other similar activity intending that the participants in such activity shall use or be trained to use criminal force or violence”– knowing it to be likely to cause fear or alarm or a feeling of insecurity amongst members of any other religious community. The maximum punishment for this is five years imprisonment.

Then comes Section 295 in the Indian Penal Code. It pertains to “destroying or damaging or defiling any place of worship”. It even includes destroying any object held sacred by any community. Another two years in jail, if found guilty.

Linked to this section is Section 295A - dealing with “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings”.
Yet another section under which the accused have been charged is Section 505. This is regarding “any statements amounting to Public Mischief. It includes “statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes or communities”.

All these are quite apart from the charge of criminal conspiracy, which falls under Section 120B of the IPC. The wording of the section is stark and dire - “Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death, or imprisonment for life or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards, shall be punished in the same manner as if he had abetted such offence”.

These are the grave charges against Advani and his co-accused who include senior BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders like Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, BJP Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Katiyar, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders Ashok Singhal (now deceased), Giriraj Kishore, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya and Sadhvi Rithambara.  

Raman Swamy

Vol. 49, No.51, Jun 25 - Jul 1, 2017