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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 September, 2003, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Minister wins Ayodhya reprieve
Murli Manohar Joshi
Mr Joshi says he is the victim of a vendetta
The High Court in India's northern Uttar Pradesh state has deferred criminal proceedings against a cabinet minister charged with inciting Hindu mobs to destroy a mosque in Ayodhya in 1992.

Murli Manohar Joshi, federal human resources minister, had offered to resign when the lower court ruled against him earlier this month.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee asked him to return to work following Tuesday's ruling.

The destruction of the Babri mosque led to nationwide religious riots in which more than 2,000 people were killed.

'Vendetta'

Mr Joshi was among seven leading Hindus charged on 19 September by a special court in the town of Rae Bareilly in connection with the tearing down of the mosque.

THE SEVEN DEFENDANTS
Babri mosque before demolition
Murli Manohar Joshi, human resources minister
Uma Bharati, former sports minister
Vinay Katiyar, BJP president in Uttar Pradesh
Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Vishwa Hindu Parishad president
Ashok Singhal, VHP working president
Giriraj Kishore, VHP vice-president
Sadhvi Rithambara, VHP activist

An eighth defendant, Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani, was told he would not be tried.

Mr Joshi challenged the charges, saying they were politically motivated and that his case was no different from Mr Advani's.

The High Court ruled that the lower court could not bring charges against Mr Joshi at its next hearing, expected on 10 October.

The judge hearing the case also summoned records from the Rae Bareilly court.

Mr Joshi said he had never considered himself guilty.

"I tendered my resignation to honour the court ruling," he said in a statement on hearing of his reprieve.

"The cases filed against me and others in this connection by the then government were motivated by political expediency and vendetta."

Dispute

Muslims and Hindus have fought a bitter campaign over ownership of the site at Ayodhya since 1992.

Both sides want to rebuild places of worship there.

Hindus claim the Babri mosque was built on the site of an ancient Hindu temple to Lord Ram.

The BJP came to power in 1998 partly because of its tough stance on Ayodhya.




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