A technical error committed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in its charge sheet against six members of Sanatan Sanstha in the Goa blast case considerably weakened their trial, HT has learnt.
“In order to file charges under the Explosive Substance Act of 1908, a sanction is required from the district magistrate. Rather than taking the mandatory sanction, the NIA took the sanction from Union home ministry, which the trial judge found legally inadequate,” said a Union home ministry official, requesting anonymity.
The NIA officials also confirmed that the agency took sanction only from the home ministry.
Ultimately, all six accused were acquitted by a special court on December 31, 2013. The NIA’s appeal against the court’s judgement is pending before the Goa bench of Bombay high court.
Two absconders — Rudra Patil and Sarang Akolkar alias Kulkarni — in the Goa blast case are now prime suspects in the murder of rationalist Govind Pansare.
Sameer Gaikwad, another member of Sanatan Sanstha, has been arrested in the Pansare murder case. According to NIA sources, Gaikwad was once questioned by the agency sleuths in connection with the Goa blast.
On October, 16, 2009, two alleged Sanatan Sanstha members were killed after a bomb they were carrying in a scooter accidentally went off. According to the NIA charge sheet, the bomb was meant for disrupting the Narakasur effigy competition that takes place in Goa a day before Diwali. On the same day, another IED-laden vehicle, planted to disrupt another similar competition, was recovered.
“The NIA was hopeful of securing conviction of accused at least under the Explosive Substance Act... The NIA tried to convince the trial court judge that the powers to give sanction under the Explosive Substance Act were delegated to the district magistrates by the home ministry only. But the argument was rejected and ultimately all six accused were acquitted,” said the official.
After Sameer Gaikwad’s arrest in the Pansare murder case, there have been renewed demand for banning Sanatan Sanstha. Sources say if the NIA had managed to get conviction in the Goa blast case, it would have put Sanstha in a tight spot.
According to Sanstha, “The police have not found any participation of Sanatan Sanstha in this (the Goa blast) case. Even the Honourable Court has not made any comments about the participation of Sanstha...” Sanstha also claimed on its website that Sameer Gaikwad was innocent.