Bringing the curtain down on a 28-year-old case involving the demolition of a disputed structure known as Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, a special court acquitted all of the accused, including two former chiefs of India’s federal nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party – Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi in the absence of evidence and held that the structure was demolished by "anti-social elements".
As a special court in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, pronounced its judgement after almost three decades, here are the key developments that led to Wednesday's verdict.
Timeline of Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Mosque Demolition Case
6 December 1992: Hindu zealots demolish the 16th Century Babri Masjid (mosque), which they believed was constructed at the birthplace of Lord Rama, a hugely revered Hindu God, in Ayodhya, in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Uttar Pradesh police registered a police complaint (First Information Report) against unknown volunteers.
In yet another case, Uttar Pradesh police registered cases against several leaders of the BJP and its ideological allies – Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharati, Giriraj Kishore, Vishnu Hari Dalmia, and Sadhvi Ritambara for religiously provocative speeches
16 December 1992: The federal government orders a judicial probe into the circumstances leading to the demolition of the Babri mosque and the role of political and executive heads of Uttar Pradesh. A sitting judge on the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan, was appointed to head the probe.
"The sequence of events leading to and all the facts and circumstances relating to the occurrence in the RJBM (Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid) Complex at Ayodhya on 6th December 1992 involving the destruction of the RJBM structure".
The role played by the state chief, members of the Council of Ministers, officials of the government of Uttar Pradesh and by individuals, concerned organisations and agencies or in connection with the destruction of the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid structure".
5 October 1993: The federal probe agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, files a case on the basis of those filed by Uttar Pradesh, against 49 people, including senior leaders of the BJP and Shiv Sena, a regional Hindu nationalist party.
27 August 1994: A special judicial magistrate transfers the case to a lower court finding prima-facie evidence against those named in the charge sheet.
9 September 1997: A lower court orders all persons named in the charge sheet to be present in the court on 17 October 1997. While one of the persons named in the charge sheet – Vijayraje Scindia died, another person Laxminarain Mahatyagi obtained a stay from a higher court. The lower court then confirmed cases against the remaining 47 individuals.
4 May 2001: The lower court exempts 21 persons named in the charge sheet, including BJP leaders Lal Krishna Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati, and Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackery, ordering proceedings against the 26 others.
29 November 2002: The Uttar Pradesh state government gives notice to the Indian Supreme Court that the exempted leaders would face legal proceedings in a special trial court in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh.
19 September 2003: The special court, which exempted then-Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani from the case, orders issuance of a charge sheet against other BJP leaders including Murli Manohar Joshi.
5 July 2005: The High Court of Allahabad stays the order exempting Lal Krishna Advani from the case.
28 July 2005: A special CBI court charges BJP leaders and leaders of its ideological allies, Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati, Vinay Katiyar, Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Vishnu Hari Dalmia, and Sadhvi Ritambara for communal violence, spreading communal hatred, etc.
30 August 2005: The trial begins at the Special CBI court.
30 June 2009: Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan submits his report, indicts BJP leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, and Murli Manohar Joshi for being responsible for the demolition of the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid structure. The report also indicts the federal intelligence agency for its failure to protect it.
"There is not a judicial remedy for every political mischief under our Constitution..... Urgent action is needed if it is not to become epidemic, a radical disease threatening the very survival of Indian society", wrote Justice Liberhan in his report.
20 May 2010: The Allahabad High Court endorses a lower court decision to exempt several BJP leaders including Lal Krishna Advani from the case.
7 February 2013: Federal probe agency, Central Bureau of Investigation challenges the Allahabad High Court order exempting BJP leaders Lal Krishna Advani and others from the RJBM structure demolition case, in the Supreme Court of India
19 April 2017: India’s Supreme Court orders the reinstatement of the case against Lal Krishna Advani and others.
30 May 2017: The special CBI court frames charges of criminal conspiracy against 32 persons including Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati and others, who were earlier exempted from the case.