A top court in India has ruled that three senior members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) should face trial over the demolition of a historical mosque by Hindu extremists in 1992.
The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that the three, including a government minister, are accused of inciting Hindu zealots to pull down the 16th century Babri mosque about 25 years ago.
The court said government minister Uma Bharti, former deputy prime minister L K Advani and M M Joshi, all senior members of the Hindu nationalist party, should face criminal conspiracy charges.
The latest ruling came after a lower court dropped the charges brought against the three by India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The decision prompted a series of appeals and counter-appeals.
"We have allowed the CBI appeal against the Allahabad High Court judgement with certain directions," local media outlets quoted Supreme Court judges as saying.
The court also ruled that Kalyan Singh, a fourth senior BJP politician, should face criminal conspiracy charges. Singh was the leader of Uttar Pradesh at the time of the incident.
Singh’s trial, however, will be delayed until his stint as governor of Rajasthan state is over. The position gives him immunity from prosecution.
There was no immediate reaction from the governing party.
Sanjay Jha, a spokesman for the opposition-led Congress, however, said the ruling party had "tried every trick in the book" to ensure that Advani, Bharti and Joshi did not face charges.
"What they (Supreme Court) have said today means there's clinching evidence that needs to be now argued out in the court," the spokesman said.
Babri mosque in Ayodhya in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh was pulled down by Hindu zealots on December 6, 1992. The demolition led to widespread riots in which thousands of people died.
The destruction of the mosque marked the culmination of a virulent campaign led by the now ruling BJP.
A number of Hindus maintain that the mosque was only built after the destruction of a temple. Some in the BJP want to build the temple on the ruins of the razed mosque.
The plan continues to horrify India’s significant Muslim minority.
Several incidents of violence against Muslims and other minority groups have fueled concerns as religious intolerance is growing under the Hindu nationalist government.
India's history is pockmarked by horrific Hindu-Muslim communal clashes in the past.