Will Justice M.S. Liberhan, who heads the commission looking into the demolition of the Babri Masjid, submit his report on December 31? Or will he ask for another extension? According to sources in the commission, its work has not quite taken off because of a lack of cooperation from key witnesses as well as successive governments at the Centre and in UP. The judge is believed to be very upset and could bring to the government's notice the hurdles he faces, rather than ask for an extension when his term gets over at the end of this month.
According to commission sources, the stay order granted by the Allahabad High Court to all senior BJP and vhp leaders from appearing before the commission about a year after it was set up on December 12, 1992 has not been vacated to date. (It was up to the Centre and state governments to move petitions for this; successive regimes made no move on this count). As a result, key witnesses like L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Kalyan Singh have refused to appear before it. Taking their cue, even low-level officials are not coming forward to depose, fearing reprisal.
According to a source, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and Vinay Katiyar, BJP MP and former president of the Bajrang Dal, are the only two key witnesses among politicians who have given their depositions to the commission. Moreover, governments at the state or the Centre haven't examined any new witnesses beyond the dozen produced within the first two years of the demolition.
There has been no attempt to file any evidence in support of the defence. Barring the white paper produced by the BJP, there have been no affidavits filed either by the organisations or individuals belonging to the Sangh parivar. The Shiv Sena, vhp, rss and the Bajrang Dal have been saying they have nothing to hide but have made no attempt to present their side of the story,' says a source close to the commission.
With very few witnesses examined, the commission is in no position to even file a preliminary report. However, there is no move to wind up the panel at least from the Centre's side. Home ministry officials cite the example of the public outcry when the BJP-Shiv Sena government attempted to wind up the Srikrishna Commission enquiring into the Bombay riots as a prime reason for not ending the term of the Liberhan Commission.
Instead of opposing the commission or winding it up, the strategy has been to grant six-month extensions. Sources in the commission are fairly certain that come December 31, it will be granted another extension. It is another matter that Justice Liberhan, according to sources, is likely to bring to the notice of the government the futility of granting extensions to a commission which is not being allowed to address its brief.