The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is unlikely to appeal against a court verdict acquitting former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activist Swami Aseemanand and six others in the Ajmer blast case, with government sources stating that experts have failed to find any “legal infirmity” in the ruling.
If the NIA accepts the verdict, it would be the fourth instance of the probe agency deciding against challenging court orders that let alleged perpetrators of so-called Hindutva terror attacks off the hook.
“I cannot confirm or deny anything,” NIA chief Sharad Kumar told Hindustan Times, when reached for his comments.
Three people were killed in an explosion at a famous shrine dedicated to Sufi saint Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer on October 11, 2007. A special NIA court in Jaipur convicted three of the accused — Sunil Joshi, Devendra Gupta and Bhavesh Patel — of the crime in April, while acquitting Aseemanand and six others. Aseemanand was accused of mentoring Joshi, the ring leader of a group of extremists accused of carrying out several blasts across the country.
As Joshi was murdered in December 2007, the other two were sentenced to life imprisonment. If the NIA doesn’t challenge the acquittal of the seven people, the judgment of the lower court will be considered final.
Aseemanand is also facing trial in two other blast cases involving the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad and the Samjhauta Express. As the NIA did not challenge the bail orders received by the former RSS activist in both the cases, he was released from Hyderabad jail last month. He had spent over six years in various prisons.
The NIA had filed charges against five people, including main accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, for Joshi’s murder in August 2014. The agency said the killing was not linked to any wider Hindutva conspiracy. A court acquitted all the accused in February.
The NIA closed its probe into the Modasa blast the following year for “lack of evidence”.
Last May, the NIA let Thakur off the hook in the 2008 Malegaon bombings although she had been formally charged by the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad seven years earlier.
When asked for his take on the acquittals in the Ajmer blast case, Sharad Kumar said: “The investigation in the case was completed before I took charge of the agency. Therefore, I cannot comment on it.”
Bhavesh Patel said in a written statement that he had contacted Congress leader Digvijaya Singh through spiritual leader Acharya Pramod Krishnan after his name surfaced in the case. Singh, in turn, arranged for a meeting with then ministers of state for home RPN Singh and Sriprakash Jaiswal as well as Sushil Kumar Shinde, their superior in the home ministry.
Patel claimed that they promised to release him on bail if he cooperates with the NIA and turns approver. However, they refused to help because he would not name RSS leaders Mohan Bhagwat and Indresh Kumar in his statement.
“No comments,” said NIA chief Sharad Kumar, when asked about Patel’s claims.