TWO persons were sentenced to life on Wednesday for the 2007 Ajmer dargah blasts, which killed three people and injured 15. The Special NIA Court also imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 respectively on “RSS pracharaks” Devendra Gupta, 41, and Bhavesh Patel, 39.
Judge Dinesh Gupta ruled out a death sentence citing mitigating circumstances, including the fact that the two had not been involved in any criminal activity prior to the blasts; they hadn’t been shown to be a constant menace to society; and they had been found guilty by drawing inferences from circumstantial evidence.
At the same time, the court questioned the NIA on its clean chit to two other accused, Ramesh Gohil and Amit, as well as “suspicious persons” such as senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar, Pragya Singh, Rajenda Chaudhary and Jayant, stating that it could not be done without invoking appropriate sections of the CrPC. It ordered the NIA DGP to do so by March 28. Ramesh Gohil died recently.
During the hearing, Public Prosecutor Ashwini Sharma told the court, “Hinduism is not just a religion, it is a way of life. Hinduism has always been viewed as a tolerant religion since anant kaal (eternity) and nobody could have imagined that a Hindu could have been involved in a terror activity. Hence, the actions of the convicts and other accused deeply hurt the established values of Hinduism.”
Invoking ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family)’, Sharma sought appropriate sentences for the guilty, adding that “apart from Muslims, Hindus also come in large numbers to pay obeisance at the (Ajmer) shrine and the aim of the bomb blast in the holy month of Ramzan was to spread terror between the two communities and to prevent Hindus from going to the shrine.”
Countering Sharma, defence advocate J S Rana said the present case had nothing to do with Hinduism, its culture or its values. “At most, it can be said that those involved in this case acted foolishly while considering themselves as being ethical.”
The Ajmer blast case saw several twists and turns, with 26 of the total 149 witnesses turning hostile. On March 8, Gupta and Patel, along with Sunil Joshi (who died in December 2007), were found guilty under Sections 120B and 295A of the IPC, Sections 3 and 4 of the Explosive Substances Act, and Sections 15,16 and 18 of the UAPA Act.
However, the court acquitted Swami Aseemanand and six others, giving them the “benefit of doubt”, including Harshad Solanki, Chandrashekhar Leve, Mukesh Vasani, Lokesh Sharma, Mehul alias Mafat Bhai alias Maheshbhai Gohil and Bharat Mohan Lal Ratishwar.
In its hearing on Wednesday, the court said Gupta’s “active involvement” had been found in the blasts for he arranged the SIM card used in the timer device. “He is not an inactive party but has constructive liability,” the court said.
As for Patel, the court pointed out, he did not use his mobile phone between 8.22 pm on October 10 and 7.18 am on October 12, 2007, and was found absconding by police. The blast at the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer took place on October 11, 2007.
Questioning the clean chit to others, including senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar, the court said, “The NIA has given clean chit and expressed its intention not to pursue further investigation against accused Ramesh Gohil and Amit as well as suspicious persons Pragya Singh, Samandar (alias Rajendra Chaudhary), Jayanti Bhai and Indresh Kumar. But in the view of this court, the court can’t consider the NIA’s actions as meeting legal requirements without invoking Sections 169 and 170/173 of the CrPC… The DGP, NIA, New Delhi, is directed to (do the needful) against both accused and all the other four found suspicious by 28-03-2017.”