A court in Ahmedabad on Tuesday accepted a Gujarat government application seeking withdrawal of a 1996 attempt to murder case against 39 accused, including BJP leaders and senior VHP functionary Pravin Togadia. The case related to the attack on then BJP minister Atmaram Patel, who was considered close to former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela. The application under CrPC section 321 (withdrawal from prosecution) was moved way back in 1998 by the then BJP government led by Keshubhai Patel.
The plea was moved nearly two years after an FIR was lodged against them for attempt to murder and other charges. Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate J M Barot on Tuesday accepted the application after which the 22-year-old case stood withdrawn.
The court had, in the first week of this month, issued non-bailable warrants against the accused for non-appearance in the case. Following this, Togadia and others appeared before the court to get the warrants cancelled. The warrants were issued as the court had then not yet passed its order on the government’s application.
At an event organised by the BJP at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad on May 20, 1996, Atmaram Patel and several other leaders of the party were attacked allegedly by Keshubhai Patel loyalists. Atmaram Patel was considered close to Vaghela, who had rebelled at that time after the first BJP government was installed in Gujarat in 1995. The BJP had then made Keshubhai Patel the chief minister instead of Vaghela, who was also a strong contender for the post.
Atmaram Patel, then a minister, was stripped and assaulted by alleged Keshubhai Patel loyalists. A complaint was lodged by Atmaram Patel with the Naranpura police station following which police had registered a case of attempt to murder and rioting against 39 people, including Togadia and some BJP leaders.
The investigation was later handed over to the Ahmedabad City Detection of Crime Branch (DCB). The court had issued several summonses in the case, but none of the accused responded after which it issued NBWs.
Togadia had attacked the BJP government over the NBW, saying it was a “conspiracy” to silence him. The VHP international working president had told media he was being victimised for criticising the central government over a host of issues, including construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya.