Aseemanand acquitted of Mecca Masjid blast
A special court in Hyderabad on Monday acquitted all five accused of the Mecca Masjid bomb blast case, almost 11 years after an improvised explosive device ripped through a Friday congregation in Hyderabad mosque killing 9 and injuring 58 others. Though there were 10 accused in the case, only these five were tried.
The court acquitted Naba Kumar Sircar, alias Swami Aseemanand, a former member of RSS in Gujarat turned patron of Abhinav Bharat, RSS pracharak Devender Gupta (Rajasthan), RSS activist Lokesh Sharma (Madhya Pradesh), Rajendra Chowdhary (Madhya Pradesh), and Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar, alias Bharat Bhai (Gujarat).
Delivering the judgment in a packed courtroom, special court judge Ravinder Reddy said the National Investigation Agency (NIA) failed to prove the allegations against the accused. “The judge observed that not a single allegation levelled by the prosecution could be proved and hence he declared all the accused acquitted,” said JP Sharma, the defense counsel. NIA officials said they will decide further course of action after examining the judgment.
In a dramatic development that sparked intense speculation in the legal circle, special court judge Ravinder Reddy resigned from his office within hours of delivering the verdict. Reddy sent his resignation letter to the Chief Justice of the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad. The judge cited “personal reasons” for his resignation. Reddy said his resignation had nothing to do with today’s judgment, according to a senior judicial officer.
Reddy had hit the headlines when as the president of the Telangana Judges’ Association he took part in the agitation in 2016 against the provisional allotment of judicial officials between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana following the bifurcation of Andhra. He was among the judges who were suspended by the High Court.
The NIA had originally filed a chargesheet against ten accused slapping them with the charge of plotting and executive the bomb blast with the intention of avenging the terrorist attacks elsewhere. One of the accused Sunil Joshi, a member of RSS in Madhya Pradesh, was killed by unknown assailants during the investigation. Two other accused, former RSS preacher Sandeep V Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra from Madhya Pradesh, remained absconding throughout the trial process and are yet to be arrested. Tejram Parmar and Amith Chowhan are still under investigation.
During last 11 years the case saw many twists and turns starting with the initial investigation by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Hyderabad city police which suspecting the involvement of Muslim groups had arrested 100 local youths.
26 of them were charged with the conspiracy but the local court rejected the charge. Subsequently the State Government handed over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation which arrested Devender Gupta and Lokesh Sharma on June 17, 2010 for their alleged involvement in the blast. They were first arrested by the CBI in connection with the blast in Khaja Moinuddin Chisti’s Dargah in Ajmer. The CBI claimed that during the questioning they had admitted their role in the Mecca Masjid blast.
During the subsequent probe Aseemananad and others were arrested. In view of the interstate nature of the crime, the case was handed over to the NIA on April 4, 2011. NIA filed the chargesheet against ten accused on February 13, 2014. During the trial, 226 witnesses were examined in the court and 411 documents were produced.
The kith and the kin of the victims of the blast reacted to the acquittal with shock and disbelief. “If these accused were innocent then who killed the people,” asked Mohammed Shakeen, a kin of one of the victims of the blast.
Hyderabad MP and MIM president Asaduddin Owaisi said the acquittal has weakened the fight against terrorism. “Justice has not been done,” he said, “This was a complete biased investigation.”
“NIA is deaf and blind parrot. Earlier they did not oppose the bail granted to the accused. During the trial majority of witnesses turned hostile after June 2014,” he said.
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