The National Investigation Agency is unlikely to challenge the bail granted on Thursday to Aseemanand in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case. While the agency, which opposed the bail in the NIA special court, says it will take a final decision after reading the court verdict, sources indicated the decision may be in Aseemanand’s favour.
Aseemanand, alias Nabakumar Sarkar, was granted bail in the case by the Fourth Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge which is the NIA special court where the trial is going on, at Nampally Court Complex in Hyderabad.
The court cited the Panchakula and Ajmer courts’ orders granting bail to Aseemanand in the Samjhauta Express blast case and Ajmer blast case to give conditional bail in the Mecca Masjid case. He has been asked to surrender his passport and not leave Hyderabad without permission from the court.
Advocate Anthony Reddy who appeared on behalf of Aseemanand said that they had moved a bail petition in 2015. “After he was given bail by a Panchakula court in the Samjhauta Express blast case in September last and a court in Ajmer granted him bail on March 8 in the Ajmer dargah case, we moved a bail application here on March 13. All the witnesses deposing against him have already been examined so what is the purpose of still keeping him in jail? Based on all this, the court agreed to grant conditional bail to Swami Assemanand today,’’ the advocate said.
The order will take two days to be processed before Assemanand can walk out of jail. Swami Aseemanand was brought back to Hyderabad last Monday where he is lodged at Chanchalguda Jail.
One reason why NIA may not challenge the bail, sources said, is Aseemanand’s advanced age. He is 79 and there’s a precedent. NIA had not challenged bail granted to Aseemanand by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on August 28, 2014, in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blast case.
Aseemanand had been represented by then BJP’s legal cell chief Satya Pal Jain. A former member of Parliament, Jain is now Additional Solicitor General and a member of the Law Commission.
In August 2015, when questions were raised on the NIA’s decision to not challenge Aseemanand’s bail, the government had told Lok Sabha, “The NIA examined the feasibility of filing an SLP and decided that there were no grounds to challenge the order in the Supreme Court.”
NIA sources had then pointed out to a precedence set by the Supreme Court in such matters. On December 12, 2014, the apex court had granted bail to Jayant Ghosh, an accused in an NIA case related to the North-East, on the ground of delayed trial and prolonged incarceration (five years) of the accused. The NIA argued that the Samjhauta trial too had been delayed and Aseemanand had been in jail since 2010.
Interestingly, trial in many Hindutva terror cases have been delayed due to myriad applications filed by the accused in various courts, including the apex court.
On May 18, 2007, a bomb blast at the Mecca masjid in Hyderabad during Friday prayers killed nine persons and injured 58. Two separate FIRs were registered at the Hussaini Alam police station regarding the blast as well as on the recovery of unexploded IED from Mecca masjid against unknown persons. Another FIR was lodged regarding police firing on a violent mob following the blast in which five were killed.
The blast case and unexploded IED recovery case were subsequently transferred to CBI. During the course of investigation, the CBI added the names of six persons to the FIR between June 2010 and November 2010 and arrested three and filed a chargesheet against Devender Gupta and Lokesh Sharma on December 13, 2010.
The NIA took over the case in April 2011. The NIA filed first supplementary charge sheet on May 16, 2011; second supplementary charge sheet on July 16, 2012; and third supplementary charge sheet on August 28, 2013. On February 13, the NIA Special Court, Namapally, framed charges against the accused and summons were issued to witnesses.
The NIA has listed seven accused in the case: Devendra Gupta alias Bobby alias Rames, out on bail in this case but in judicial custody in other cases; Lokesh Sharma alias Ajay Tiwari alias Ajay alias Kalu; Nabakumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand alias Ramdas; Bharat Mohanlal Rateswar alias Bharatbhai Moahanlal Rateswar; Rajendhar Chowdary alias Samundhar alias Dasarath alias Lakshman Das Maharaj; Sandeep V Dange alias Vasudev alias Paramanand alias Ashwini alias Teacher and Ramchandra Kalsangra alias Ramji alias Omji alias Patel.
Over 100 of 200 witnesses have been examined so far in the court who are all injured victims or those who attended prayers at Mecca masjid on that day.
In January 2011, Abdul Kaleem, a 23-year-old who was wrongly arrested for Mecca Masjid blast and was an inmate at Chanchalguda Jail alongside Swami Aseemanand, claimed that Assemanand had confessed to his involvement in the Mecca blast, and even apologised to him saying that it was because of him that he was wrongly put in jail. Kaleem spent one and half year in jail before a court quashed all charges against him.