Nine years after being charged with criminal conspiracy in the murder of a temple manager in November 2004, Kanchi sankaracharyas Jayendra Saraswathi, 78, and Vijayendra Saraswathi, 44, were acquitted by a Puducherry court on Wednesday.
Twenty-one others who were accused along with the pontiffs were also acquitted while another accused was murdered earlier this year.
“There is no incriminating evidence against the accused,” declared principal district and sessions judge CS Murugan, who also said no motive for the murder could be established. The case saw more than half the witnesses turning hostile.
The Tamil Nadu police said temple manager Sankararaman, who was hacked to death in Mahbubnagar, Andhra Pradesh, had been writing letters to the Kanchi Mutt under an assumed name, complaining of misappropriation of its funds.
The case was transferred from Tamil Nadu to the adjoining Union Territory of Puducherry after the senior pontiff filed a plea saying he thought a trial in Tamil Nadu, where the Kanchipuram Mutt is located, would not be impartial.
Reacting to the verdict, Sankararaman's son Anand said it was "shocking and unbelievable" and wanted to know who the killers were.
The sankaracharyas declined to comment before mediapersons outside the court and boarded a car to visit the Lord Venkateswara temple in Tirupati.