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Monday, 12 February, 2001, 15:59 GMT
Trial for Ayodhya accused
Babri mosque
The mosque was razed nine years ago
An Indian court has ruled that nearly 40 people can be put on trial in connection with the destruction of an ancient mosque nine years ago.

But some top government ministers earlier named in the court proceedings will not be amongst this group of defendants.

The Babri Mosque in the northern city of Ayodhya was destroyed on 6 December, 1992, by Hindu zealots.

Nearly 2,000 people were killed in the communal riots that followed.

Ministers accused

The high court's decision paves the way for criminal proceedings against those accused of crimes relating to the demolition and the riots that followed.

But the court rejected the notice served against eight politicians from the ruling party, the BJP, including the Home Minister LK Advani.

LK Advani
LK Advani: Off the hook
Three years ago, a local court decided there were sufficient grounds to charge the ministers as well as the the hardline Hindu leader Bal Thackeray.

But the high court dismissed that verdict on technical grounds.

Correspondents say the uncertainty surrounding the latest ruling will relieve Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who has always rejected demands for the accused ministers to resign.

He has faced angry demands from the opposition to dismiss the ministers because of the allegations against them.

Lawyers watching the proceedings describe the judgement, which runs to more than a 150 pages, as very complicated and said they were still studying its implications.

Emotional issue

The demolition of the mosque has been an emotive and divisive issue in India and threatened to cause conflict within the present fragile ruling coalition.

Hindu zealots believe that the Babri Mosque stood on the site of a temple marking the birthplace of the Hindu God, Ram.

Hardline Hindu organisations, led by Mr Advani, mounted a campaign in favour of building a temple in place of the mosque, which leds to its destruction.

Last month, the hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) announced it would give the government until March 2002 to take steps that would allow the construction of a temple over the controversial site.

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See also:

20 Jan 01 | South Asia
Hindus set Ayodhya deadline
07 Dec 00 | South Asia
Row over Vajpayee remarks
19 Dec 00 | South Asia
Vajpayee loses Ayodhya vote
16 Nov 00 | South Asia
India's Ayodhya cauldron bubbles
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