HC cites sketchy evidence to uphold acquittal of 2009 Goa bomb blast accused
In a telling remark, the court said that mere suspicion, not matter how grave, can’t replace evidence.Updated: Sep 20, 2020, 10:16 IST
Acquittal of six persons charged by the national investigation agency (NIA) for allegedly planting a bomb at a Diwali eve celebration at Margao to be attended by then Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat, has been confirmed by the Bombay high court at Goa, citing lack of sufficient evidence against the accused.
Vinay Talekar, Vinayak Patil, Dhananjay Ashtekar, Dilip Mangaonkar, Prashant Ashtekar and Prashant Juvekar, all barring Mangaonkar, residents of Maharashtra, faced trial under various sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, the Explosive Substances Act and the Indian Penal Code, after a homemade bomb went off on the eve of Diwali in 2009 in Margao in South Goa.
Two persons -- Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik -- who were reportedly ferrying the bomb, were killed in the explosion after the bomb went off prematurely. The duo were also named as accused but since they died, the charges against them were abated. Three other accused were absconding and never found.
On the eve of Diwali on 16th October, 2009, when effigies of Narkasur, a mythical demon king, are burnt all over Goa, an explosion took place at a distance of hardly 400 metres from the venue of the Narkasur effigy competition. The explosives were placed in an Eterno scooter belonging to a close relation of the accused persons.
The NIA investigation built a case that the Sanatan Sanstha, which had been regularly opposing the holding of any Narkasur effigy competition claiming the demon’s grand effigies were taking the focus away from Lord Krishna’s assassination of Narkasur, had planted the bomb to disrupt the competition.
“The motive for the accused persons (was) to cause an explosion at the venue of the competition and thereby instil terror not only in the minds of organizers of such competitions but also in the members of the public, who, in hundreds attend such competitions,” the NIA said.
The court while partially agreeing with them, however, found the evidence sketchy.
“There is evidence on record that the accused persons had close links with the Sanatan Sanstha and there is evidence on record that this Sanstha for the period between 2001 and 2009 was protesting the holding of any Narkasur effigy competition in the State of Goa,” the High Court bench of Justices M S Jawalkar and M S Sonak said in its order.
“The prosecution may have established that there was an explosion at Margao. However, that by itself is not sufficient to hold that such an explosion was a result of conspiracy hatched by the accused persons. There is no independent evidence on record to establish the conspiracy or meeting of minds amongst the accused persons. The evidence regarding conspiracy is quite sketchy,” the high court observed.
The court ruled that that merely linking the accused with Sanatan Sanstha and putting on record the organisation’s opposition to the effigy competition doesn’t establish their role in the bomb blast.
“Merely because the accused persons may have links with Sanatan Sanstha and Sanatan Sanstha was opposed to holding of Narkasur effigy competitions, is by no means sufficient to establish the accused persons had conspired to make explosion at such competition on the fateful night of 16th October, 2009,” the High Court ruled.
“Suspicion, however, grave, can never take the place of proof which is required in such matters,” the high court said.
The court however, disagreed with the trial court which had said that the NIA had launched a malafide investigation against the Sanstha.
“To suggest that there was some manipulation in the FIR or that the prosecution was unfairly directed against a particular institution, is not an inference which could be legitimately drawn on the basis of the evidence on record. The observations made doubting the veracity of FIR or suggesting any malafides in the launch of the prosecution… cannot be sustained and are required to be set aside as being contrary to the weight of evidence on record,” the High Court said.