Aseemanand, others accused in 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case acquitted
The NIA court cited lack of evidence against Swami Aseemanand, three former RSS workers - Devendra Gupta, Lokesh Sharma and Rajender Chowdhary -- and Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar.
A special court of National Investigation Agency in Hyderabad on Monday acquitted all the five accused charge-sheeted in the sensational Mecca Masjid bomb blast case of 2007, for want of concrete evidence after some of the witnesses turned hostile.
The bomb blast, which took place during Friday prayers in the mosque adjacent to the historic Charminar in Hyderabad on May 18, 2007 claimed nine lives and left 58 injured. Five others were killed in police firing in the violence that followed immediately after the blast.
Dismissing the case stating that there was no evidence to prove the NIA charges, the fourth additional metropolitan sessions court judge Justice Ravinder Reddy acquitted godman Nabakumar Sarkar alias Swamy Aseemananda of Gujarat, RSS pracharak Devendra Guptha of Rajasthan, property dealer-cum-RSS activist Lokesh Sharma of MP, private employee Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar alias Bharat Bhai of Gujarat and a farmer Rajender Chowdary of MP.
In a very interesting development though Justice Reddy, within hours of delivering the judgement resigned from his job and went incommunicado.
Justice Reddy, who is heading the Telangana Judicial Officers’ Association, sent his resignation letter to Hyderabad high court chief justice Ramesh Ranganathan in the evening. Reasons for his resignation are not exactly known.
Earlier, defence lawyer B Rajvardhan Reddy told media after the judgement at the Nampally criminal courts complex,“The judge observed that the prosecution could prove not a single allegation leveled by the agency, and hence he declared all the accused acquitted.”
However, the cases against three other accused, Ramachandra Kalasangara, Sandeep V Dange and Amith Chouhan, who are absconding, as well as another accused Tejaram Parmar, who was facing trial in another case, are still pending, as the NIA had not included their names in the original charge-sheet.
Another accused Sunil Joshi was murdered at Dewas in Madhya Pradesh on December 9, 2007 and hence the case against him was dropped, the lawyer added.
The state government in June 2007 had transferred the case to Central Bureau of Investigation who later handed over the case to NIA in 2011.
In all, the CBI and the NIA had named 10 persons as the accused: Devender Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Sandeep Dange, Ramachandra Kalsangra, Sunil Joshi, Swamy Aseemananda, Bharat Mohan Lal, Rajender Chowdary, Tejram Parmar and Amit Chouhan. The accused were found to be related to Abhinav Bharat and had close links with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
The accused were charged under sections 302, 307, 326 and 324 read with 120 (B) IPC, Sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and Sections of Explosive Substances Act, 1908.
During the trial, the NIA court examined 226 witnesses of whom 66 witnesses turned hostile. The NIA exhibited as many as 411 documents during the trial.
Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen president and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi accused the National Investigation Agency of deliberately failing to produce evidences against the accused in the Mecca Masjid blast case.
Owaisi said it was a malicious and biased prosecution done by the NIA and that was why the accused could not be convicted. He pointed out that many witnesses had turned hostile after 2014 (when the BJP came to power at the Centre). Reacting to Justice Ravinder Reddy’s resignation Owaisi tweeted “judge who gave acquittal to all accused in the Mecca Masjid blast resigns, very intriguing and I am surprised with the lordships (’s) decision”
Initially, the Hyderabad police who investigated the case suspected it to be the handiwork of Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HuJI), a fundamentalist group supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The police picked up more than 90 youth – unofficial figures put it at more than 200 – for interrogation and finally, 21 youth were charge-sheeted.
The police blamed Bilal, linked to HuJI, as the mastermind behind the terror attack. He was later killed in a shoot-out. After a prolonged trial, the Nampally criminal courts acquitted all the accused on January 1, 2009 for lack of evidence.
Given the sensitive nature of the case, police had tightened security around the Nampally courts and also around Mecca Masjid. More than 2,000 police personnel were deployed including Rapid Action Force and Telangana special force to provide security.