CBI's submission in the Babri Masjid demolition case that senior BJP leader L K Advani and others had committed a 'national crime' drew a sharp reaction from the Supreme Court which asked the agency not to use such a language till the case is decided by the courts.
"Please don't say that it is a national crime or a matter of national importance. We are yet to decide it. Until we or trial court decide this way or other, you can't make such statements," a bench headed by Justice H L Dattu said.
The bench made the observations after senior advocate P P Rao, appearing for CBI, submitted that leaders of BJP and VHP were involved in a "national conspiracy" which was reflected in the Rath Yatra and its a case of "national crime".
Rao's submission came while challenging the verdicts of Special CBI court and Allahabad High Court dropping conspiracy charges against BJP leaders Advani, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti Vinay Katiyar and Murli Manohar Joshi.
The others against whom charges were dropped included Satish Pradhan, C R Bansal, Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Sadhvi Ritambhara, V H Dalmia, Mahant Avaidhynath, R V Vedanti, Param Hans Ram Chandra Das, Jagdish Muni Maharaj, B L Sharma, Nritya Gopal Das, Dharam Das, Satish Nagar and Moreshwar Save.
During arguments, the bench also questioned CBI over the delay in hearings before the special court and the filing of the appeal challenging the verdicts of the two courts.
"You said that it is a case of national importance. Then can you say that the translation (of court records) takes days and filing of case takes three months," the bench said.
The agency pleaded that it should be allowed to file a fresh affidavit to explain its stand but the bench turned it down and said no fresh affidavits or material will be allowed to be placed before it.
However, the SC allowed CBI to file documents which were referred to in the verdicts of the special court and high court.
The court adjourned the hearing till February 13, after Rao pleaded for some time to go through the files of the case.
Earlier on December 6, 2012, the apex court had asked a Rae Bareily court to expeditiously hear the Babri Masjid demolition case of Ayodhya against Advani and the others.
The CBI moved the apex court challenging the May 21, 2010 order of the Allahabad High Court, which had upheld a special court's decision to drop the charges against the leaders.
The High Court had at that time, however, allowed the CBI to proceed with other charges against Advani and others in a Rae Bareily court, under which the disputed structure falls.
The May 2010 order of the high court had said there was no merit in the CBI's revision petition against the May 4, 2001 order of the special court which directed dropping of criminal conspiracy charges against them.
There are two sets of cases -- one against Advani and others who were on the dais at Ram Katha Kunj in Ayodhya in December 1992 when the Babri Masjid was demolished, while the other case was against lakhs of unknown 'karsevaks' who were in and around the disputed structure.
The CBI had charge-sheeted Advani and 20 others under sections 153A IPC (promoting enmity between classes), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505 (false statements, rumours etc circulated with the intent to cause mutiny or disturb public peace).
It had subsequently invoked charges under Section 120 B (Criminal Conspiracy) which was quashed by the Special Court whose decision was upheld by the high court.
Bal Thackeray's name was removed from the list of accused persons after his death recently.
While upholding the special court's order, the High Court had said the CBI at no point of time, either during the trial at Rae Bareily or in its revision petition, ever stated that there was offence of criminal conspiracy against the leaders.