SC pulls up CBI over delay in appealing Babri verdict

Babri Masjid demolition

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was caught on the wrong foot Thursday when the Supreme Court asked it to first establish the maintainability of its criminal appeal in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case since the agency was late in moving court despite claiming it to be a matter of "national importance".

Even before the CBI could argue on the merits of its appeal against an earlier ruling that said senior BJP leaders such as L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi cannot be tried for criminal conspiracy in the demolition, the apex court said that the agency will have to first explain its over four-month delay in filing the appeal and satisfy the court why it should condone the lapses.

"You just said that it is a matter of national importance. So, now could you be saying that translation of certain court documents will take days and settling the issues will take another three months? Except for your general statements, how do you intend to justify your delay? Since the other side has serious objections to condoning the delay, you require to satisfy us first," said a bench led by Justice H L Dattu.

Earlier, senior advocate P P Rao, appearing for the CBI, had begun by saying that Advani and others had committed a "national crime" and that the issue involved in these appeals were of "national importance".

Shooting down the argument, the bench said: "Please don't say that matter is of national importance or it is a national crime. You cannot say whether it is a national crime or not unless the court decides it in one way or the other."

When asked to first explain the delay, Rao said translation of vernacular documents and other administrative work took time. The bench, however, examined all the documents on record and questioned if the work required so much time.

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