Lack of evidence was cited as the main reason for the acquittal of the five accused in the 2007 blast at the Mecca Masjid. Yet one article, which was considered part of the evidence, never reached the NIA when the case was transferred to the agency from the CBI in 2011.
A red shirt, suspected to have belonged to one of the persons who placed the bombs, was recovered from the blast site by the local police. But at some point during the probe, it disappeared, sources said.
Former NIA special director N R Wasan, who supervised the case in its later stages, confirmed the existence of the red shirt and the fact that it never reached the NIA. He said he did not know what actually happened to the shirt or who was responsible for its safekeeping.
The accused had left behind two bomb-laden bags at the Mecca Masjid on May 18, 2007. But only one exploded. Police recovered an unexploded IED from the second bag along with a key and a red shirt.
The investigation was handed over to CBI which filed a chargesheet in the case. In 2010, the case went to the NIA which filed three chargesheets subsequently, and named seven persons —- Swami Aseemanand, Devendra Gupta, Ramchandra Kalsangra, Sandeep Dange, Rajendra Chowdary, Bharat Ratishwar and Lokesh Sharma.
NIA sources said that though all evidence and case papers came to the NIA from CBI after the transfer of the case, the red shirt never arrived.
The key found in the bag was suspected to be part of the IED and perhaps used to trigger it. “However, a forensic examination of the key and IED revealed that it did not fit the device it was meant to be part of. That key still remains a mystery,” an NIA officer said.
The red shirt, sources said, is a missing evidence. In the Bodh Gaya blasts of July 2013, the accused had left behind a bag containing a monk’s robe. When the NIA later arrested Hyder Ali on suspicion of planting the bomb, it matched the DNA samples collected from the robe with his blood. This is now a crucial evidence in the case.
In the Mecca Masjid blast case, the bombs had been planted by Rajendra Chowdary and Tejram Parmar. The bomb planted by Parmar in a bag did not explode. It was from this bag, sources said, the red shirt was recovered. Parmar, interestingly, was never chargesheeted by the agency despite being arrested in the case.
The agency also did not chargesheet RSS leader Indresh Kumar in the case even though it mentioned him in the chargesheet.
In the very first chargesheet that NIA filed in the case on April 6, 2011, it said, “…investigation has disclosed that in furtherance of the criminal conspiracy as aforesaid, accused Swami Aseemanand and one Indresh Kumar had provided finance to accused Sunil Joshi towards fulfillment of the criminal conspiracy.”
NIA officers have maintained that the agency never had enough prosecutable evidence against Indresh Kumar.
The chargesheet added that Sunil Joshi, key accused in the case later killed by his associates, used this money to travel to Indore, Jaipur, Shabari Dham in Guajarat and other parts of Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Nepal etc and for arranging logistics and paying other associates in the case to give effect to the blasts.
These disclosures were based on confessional statement made before a magistrate by Swami Aseemanand who later retracted the same. The charges of conspiracy too were based on call data records of the accused and witnesses who had attended or aided these meetings. Most of these witnesses turned hostile in court.