A day after a special court acquitted Swami Aseemanand and six others in the 2007 Ajmer Dargah blast case, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) said it will examine the order of the court. Public prosecutor Ashwini Sharma told The Indian Express that there was “sufficient” evidence against Aseemanand and others. On Wednesday, the special NIA court convicted three persons, including two who identified as “RSS pracharaks” in court records, but acquitted seven others.
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Associated with the trial since its start, Sharma said: “The prosecution case failed as 29 key witnesses out of 149 turned hostile during the trial. Among the hostile witnesses, many of them recorded their statements before a magistrate under section 164 of CrPC but later retracted saying they gave statement under duress.”
“We will wait until March 16 for the court to pronounce the quantum of sentence before taking any decision,” Sharma said.
The NIA said it was yet to receive the copy of the court order and will decide once it goes through the judgment. Besides Aseemanand, who ran the RSS-backed Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, the others acquitted were Harshad Solanki, Chandrashekhar Leve, Mukesh Vasani, Lokesh Sharma, Mehul alias Mafat Bhai alias Maheshbhai Gohil and Bharat Mohan Lal Ratishwar. Devendra Gupta and Sunil Joshi (who was killed in December 2007) were held guilty, along with Bhavesh Patel, under Sections 120B and 295 A of the IPC, Sections 3 and 4 of the Explosive Substances Act and Sections 15,16 and 18 of the UAPA Act.
Aseemanand, who was arrested after a long chase in 2010, had confessed before the CBI and later NIA about his role in leading, planning and helping the execution of several blasts targeting minorities across India “to avenge attacks on Hindu temples”. Though Aseemanand later retracted his confession, the NIA chargesheeted him in three cases — Ajmer, Samjhauta Express and Mecca Masjid (Hyderabad) blasts.
He was granted bail in Samjhauta case by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in August 2014. Trial in the Mecca Masjid case began only one-and-half months ago. In all these cases, Aseemanand has been accused of taking part in conspiracy meetings and being the key motivator of the group that executed the blasts. The blast at the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer on October 11, 2007 killed three people and injured 17 others.
The case was first investigated by the Rajasthan ATS, and transferred to the NIA in 2011. The NIA filed three supplementary chargesheets, besides the original one filed by the ATS.
According to the NIA’s chargesheets, Bhavesh Patel, a resident of Bharuch in Gujarat, had made over a dozen calls to Joshi in the run-up to the blast. The special court will pronounce the quantum of the sentence after hearing arguments from both sides on March 16. The court also imposed of Rs 1 lakh each on Devendra Gupta and Bhavesh Patel.
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