In what could be an indication of the Centre’s changing approach towards probes into instances of so-called “Hindu terror”, the NDA government asked the NIA not to challenge the Andhra high court giving bail to two accused in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case, sources told HT.
Devendra Gupta and Lokesh Sharma were arrested after the attack at the Hyderabad mosque that killed nine people – five others died when police opened fire on an angry mob protesting the incident.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had 90 days to file an appeal in the apex court after the high court granted bail to the two men on March 12, 2014.
Sources say the agency immediately asked for sanction from the home ministry then headed by Sushilkumar Shinde, but the general elections followed soon after and the UPA was voted out.
“The NDA government came to power and with the regime change at the centre the statutory limit of 90 days to file an appeal also got over,” said a senior government official requesting anonymity. “After the expiry of the statutory period, the home ministry told the NIA that after deliberations on the issue it found there were insufficient legal grounds for challenging the high court order.”
Experts say as the NIA didn’t appeal against the bail order, it has become absolute and the defence counsel can cite it while seeking bail for their clients in the cases being tried under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The two men are still behind bars as they have also been charged in other terror cases – Gupta in the 2007 Dargah Ajmer Sharif attack and Sharma in the 2006 Malegaon blast as well as the 2007 Samjahuta Express blast.
Referring to some of these incidents, the then home minister Shinde accused the BJP and RSS in 2013 of fomenting what he described as “Hindu terrorism” through some training camps. He expressed regret over his remarks days later following strident protests from the BJP and RSS.
The BJP says the so-called “Hindu terror” probes launched by the UPA government were a conspiracy to malign the Sangh Parivar and its affiliates.
While granting bail to Gupta and Sharma, the Andhra high court said the charges against them didn’t appear to be “prima facie true”. It also made interesting observations on the changing fortunes of some high-profile cases and drove home the point that an accused cannot be equated with a convict.
“….Allegations of huge amount of money, changing hands, were made with tonnes of supporting material; ultimately ended almost with a covering letter of apology, while returning the amount confiscated from the accused,” the court said, referring to the Bofors case.