New Delhi, Feb 20, 2020: Mahant Nritya Gopal Das and Champat Rai, accused in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case, were given top posts in the Ram Mandir trust responsible for the construction of a Ram Mandir in the very first meeting held on 19 February.
"When the initial list of names of the Ram Mandir trust came out on 5 February we were miffed that Mahant Nritya Gopal Das and Champat Rai were not included. We agitated and were reassured by the Home Ministry that their names will be added at a later stage," said a relieved Mahant Kamal Nayan Das, senior member and designated successor of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, created by members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), while speaking to The Quint.
While Das, chief of Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, has been named president, Rai who is VHP vice president has been named general secretary. The meeting was held at SC Lawyer K Parasaran’s home in Delhi’s Greater Kailash and lasted over three hours.
"We were told by local MLAs and the Home Ministry that the reason their names were not added was because both of them are accused in the ongoing trial of the Babri Masjid demolition case. The government feared a legal challenge," Mahand Kamal Nayan Das added.
For 15 years advocate Muhammad Mazaharul Haq has advocated for Muslim petitioners in the Babri demolition case at a special court in Lucknow.
The criminal case on the demolition of the mosque – which is distinct from the title dispute that was settled by the Supreme Court in November 2019 – has gone through a complicated series of delays and legal challenges.
"In 2017 the Supreme Court had merged two cases, state vs Pawan Pandey and others, and state vs LK Advani," Haq recalls.The apex court had to step in following years of confused judgments to order that the different FIRs – against the kar sevaks who destroyed the mosque and those who instigated them – be merged together, and that the trial be completed in a time-bound manner.
Das and Rai were accused in the State vs Pawan Pandey case which was clubbed with the state vs LK Advani case (dealing with allegations of criminal conspiracy), and are currently out on bail.
Haq explained that both Das and Rai have been accused under Sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 395 (dacoity), 397 (Robbery, or dacoity, with attempt to cause death or grievous hurt), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house) 153 A (promoting hate and enmity on grounds of religion) and 153 B (assertions prejudicial to national integration) of the Indian Penal Code.
Disappointed with the trust adding Das and Rai, Zafaryab Jilani, key lawyer who was advocating for the Muslim petitioners in the Ayodhya title dispute on which the SC deliberated upon in November 2019, said the move is against the intention of the Supreme Court.
"The fact that two people who have been accused of demolition of the mosque have been named as president and general secretary of the Ram Mandir trust is against the intention of the Supreme Court judgment from November 2019. The top court had not recognised the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas in 1985," he said