NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court exempted Rajasthan governor Kalyan Singh from facing criminal conspiracy charge in the Babri Masjid demolition case respecting the constitutional immunity enjoyed by governors from prosecution.
Though a bench of Justices P C Ghose and R F Nariman ordered revival of criminal conspiracy charges against senior BJP leaders including L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati, it clarified that Singh could not be roped in as an accused to face trial in view of the constitutional immunity granted to governors under Article 361 of the Constitution.
Article 361 of the Constitution confers immunity to the President and governors from criminal and civil cases during their term of office. It says no court can issue summons to the President or a governor in any case. However, the court told the CBI to call Singh as an accused as soon as he ceased to be governor.
Singh took oath as Rajasthan governor on September 4, 2014. As the term of the governor is for five years, unless curtailed by the President on the advice of the council of ministers headed by the prime minister, he will enjoy immunity from prosecution till September 3, 2019, when his tenure as governor comes to an end.
There are two sets of cases. One against veteran BJP leader Advani and others, who were on the dais at Ram Katha Kunj in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 when the Babri mosque was demolished. The other case was against lakhs of ‘kar sevaks’ who were in and around the disputed structure when it was demolished.
The CBI had chargesheeted Advani and 20 others under Sections 153A (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) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It had subsequently invoked charges under Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC, which was quashed by the special court whose decision was upheld by the Allahabad High Court.
Singh, however, had a brush with the SC relating to the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid disputed structure, which was standing on 2.77 acres and was acquired by the state government in 1991. The SC had ordered status quo on the land and the UP government through then CM Kalyan Singh had tendered an affidavit in July 1992 promising not to alter the status quo. However, the court found permanent structures being erected at the disputed site in the name of pilgrimage facilities.
It had proceeded against Singh for contempt of court and held him guilty on October 24, 1994. It had ordered, “Since the contempt raises larger issues which affect the very foundation of the secular fabric of our nation, the chief minister (Kalyan Singh) is sentenced to token imprisonment for one day with a fine of Rs 20,000.”