13 May 2001

Centre stalls CBI move on Ayodhya

13 May 2001
The Times of India

Centre stalls CBI move on Ayodhya

By Siddharth Varadarajan

NEW DELHI: The Vajpayee government is refusing to act on a request from the
CBI, seeking a fresh notification from the UP government for the
establishment of a special court in the Babri Masjid demolition case.

Three months after the Allahabad High Court handed a legal reprieve to Union
ministers L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti by faulting the
establishment of the special CBI court on technical grounds, neither the
state nor the Centre appears eager to revive the case.

While the BJP says it is for the UP government to issue a fresh
notification - and the state government has said it is for the CBI to move -
the Centre has formally refrained from stating its position. With good
reason too, since it has been stalling a request from the CBI for the UP
government to issue a fresh notification.

According to CBI sources, the agency contacted the Department of Personnel
and Training (DoPT) - its nodal ministry - shortly after the Allahabad
court's February 12 ruling. "As it concerned a state government, it wouldn't
have been appropriate to write to Lucknow directly. Hence, DoPT was
requested to ask the UP government to issue a fresh notification for the
Ayodhya criminal case to be revived," a source said.

Though Vasundhara Raje Scindia is the DoPT minister, the department comes
under the overall charge of Prime Minister Vajpayee. Neither Vasundhara Raje
nor secretary, DoPT, B B Tandon, were available for comment. However, D C
Gupta, additional secretary in charge of the CBI, said he had no
recollection of any CBI request in the Ayodhya case. When pressed, he stated
that ``the CBI need not write to us'', but he refused to confirm or deny any
request following the high court ruling. ``There are hundreds of cases. I
cannot remember them all,'' he said.

Despite repeated requests for his opinion on the matter, Attorney-General
Soli Sorabjee refused to comment. After a written request was faxed, his
office called back to say the AG couldn't reply ``as the matter was sub
judice'', a curious stand since the CBI special court has in fact suspended
all proceedings pending a fresh notification.

The CBI, too, is refusing to comment on the case. Since the bureau is
currently headed by only an acting director - who is himself a candidate for
director - there is bound to be a lot of pressure on him not to pursue the
issue with the government.

Unless the CBI, DoPT and the UP government move to ensure a fresh
notification, Advani and the others will not have to worry about any legal
proceedings in the demolition case - other than those that might eventually
stem from the Liberhan commission of inquiry.

Sources in the CBI said the UP government had issued two notifications for
transferring the FIRs to the special court in the Ayodhya case. Through
notification number 197, the UP government transferred 47 cases and by
notification number 198, the cases involving eight politicians, including
Advani, Joshi and Uma Bharti, for making inflammatory speeches, were also

While notification number 197 said it was issued with the concurrence of the
Allahabad High Court, notification number 198 did not. Hence, a fresh
notification must be issued with the high court's concurrence.

(With inputs from Pratyush Kanth and Akshaya Mukul)

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