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Four years before Mecca verdict, NIA cautioned against Aseemanand’s confession

NIA came under attack from the Opposition on Monday for alleged shoddy probe after the five men, including Aseemanand, accused of plotting the 2007 bombing that killed nine people were let off for want of evidence.

india Updated: Apr 18, 2018 12:46 IST
Rajesh Ahuja
Rajesh Ahuja
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Mecca verdict case,Mecca blast,Aseemanand
Five men, including Aseemanand, accused of plotting the 2007 bombing were let off for want of evidence. (PTI File Photo)

A top National Investigation Agency officer had cautioned his investigators against excessively relying on the confession of main accused Aseemanand in filing the charge sheet in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case, documents reviewed by Hindustan Times show.

The anti-terror investigating agency came under attack from the Opposition on Monday for alleged shoddy probe after the five men, including Aseemanand, accused of plotting the 2007 bombing that killed nine people, were let off for want of evidence.

But NIA’s then additional director general NR Wasan had in 2013 written on the case file that Aseemanand’s “confession” would require a higher degree of corroboration since he had retracted the statement. HT has reviewed the comments.

“…when the file (draft charge sheet) came to Wasan for his comments, he wrote there was not enough material on record to file a charge sheet against three suspects,” a former NIA official familiar with the case said on condition of anonymity.

In the absence of independent corroboration, the retracted confession should not be used to prosecute other three suspects, Wasan, who was the second senior-most NIA official, wrote, referring to Bharath Mohanlal Rateswar, Rajender Chowdhary and Tejram Parmar. “Besides, he added that evidence offered by Aseemanand’s confession got further weakened as it was being used against a co-accused,” the former NIA official said.

A month after his arrest, Aseemanand in December 2010 confessed to a magistrate that a group of Hindu extremists was responsible for the Mecca Masjid blasts and also the Samjhauta Express train, Malegaon and Ajmer Sharif bombings. His statement was recorded under Section 164 of the CrPC, making it admissible as evidence. But within weeks he withdrew his statement, saying it was forced out of him. A judge can still rely on it, provided it is backed with other evidence, experts say.

Following Wasan’s comments, charges against Parmar were dropped. But in August, 2013 NIA went on to file a supplementary charge sheet in the court against Rateswar and Chowdhary.

The two are among the five people who were let off on Monday. NIA also ignored Wasan’s argument that there was no direct reference to Rateswar being part of the plot to place two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the mosque, the former NIA official quoted above said.

Only one IED went off, the other was found wrapped in a T-shirt “Wasan’s argument was that at best an inference could be drawn against the suspects but there was no corroboration…” the former NIA official said. When contacted, Wasan refused comment. His boss SC Sinha said when the supplementary charge sheet was filed, he was not NIA chief. Sharad Kumar, who succeeded Sinha as NIA chief, wasn’t available for comments.

Nine people were killed and 58 injured when a bomb ripped through the historic Hyderabad mosque on May 18, 2007. The bombing was initially probed by the Hyderabad Police and then handed over to CBI, which filed the first charge sheet in 2010. A few months later, the NIA took over and filed three charge sheets naming seven persons.

First Published: Apr 18, 2018 07:56 IST