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Wednesday, 22 December, 1999, 15:44 GMT
Court delays Ayodhya hearing

The mosque was destroyed by a predominantly Hindu mob The mosque was destroyed by a predominantly Hindu mob

By Ram Dutt Tripathi in Lucknow

A special court in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has postponed hearing a high-profile case relating to the destruction of a mosque in the town of Ayodhya nine years ago.

Formal charges against 49 people were expected to be filed in the special court appointed to investigate the razing of the 16th century mosque in 1992 by a predominantly Hindu mob.

Among those accused in the case are several federal ministers, including Home Minister LK Advani.

The court has now adjourned hearing the case until 9 February.

Defendants' no show

The defendants' lawyer told the court that petitions filed by 33 of the accused were still pending in the state's high court.

Home Minister Advani faces criminal charges Home Minister Advani faces criminal charges
Some of his clients were unavailable to appear in court he said, since they were attending the current session of parliament.

Indian law requires the appearance of all the accused in court for charges to be formally framed.

The court turned down the prosecution's request to begin hearing the case against 16 of the accused who have not filed review petitions in the high court.

It said it did not want to split the case.

Legal delays

The delay is the latest in a series of procedural setbacks since federal police filed charges against the 49 accused six years ago.

Murli Manohar Joshi: One of 49 accused Murli Manohar Joshi: One of 49 accused
In 1997 - five years after the mosque was destroyed - the special court announced that it had found adequate evidence to indict the accused, and ordered that they be formally charged.

But the session court has been unable to make much progress with the case because of the revision petitions filed in the high court.

Legal experts say loopholes in Indian law allow such lengthy delays.

Home Minister LK Advani along with Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi are accused - along with others - of having actively encouraged the destruction of the mosque.

The incident triggered some of the worst clashes ever seen between Hindus and Muslims in India, killing at least 2,000 people.

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