The NIA Court at Nampally Court Complex on Monday acquitted five accused in Mecca Masjid blast case of May 18, 2007. Citing lack of evidence and prosecution’s failure to prove any of the charges made by the NIA, the Fourth Additional Metropolitan Sessions cum NIA Court acquitted five main accused.
The court dismissed the case against Devendra Gupta alias Bobby alias Ramesh who was out on bail but in judicial custody in other cases; Lokesh Sharma alias Ajay Tiwari alias Ajay alias Kalu who is out on bail but in judicial custody in other cases; Nabakumar Sarkar alias Swamy Aseemanand alias Ramdas who was granted bail on March 23, 2017; Bharat Mohanlal Rateswar alias Bharatbhai Mohanlal Rateswar who is out on bail; and Rajendhar Chowdary alias Samundhar alias Dasarath alias Lakshman Das Maharaj who is in judicial custody.
“The court noted that the prosecution could not prove its case; no evidence was presented to prove the conspiracy. Five accused who were arrested have been acquitted by the court today,’’ defence lawyer B Rajvardhan Reddy said. While the sixth accused Sunil Joshi was found shot dead under mysterious circumstances in Dewas on December 29, 2007, Sandeep V Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra remain absconding so the verdict against them is pending.
On May 18, 2007, a bomb blast occurred at the Mecca Masjid during Friday prayers resulting in the death of 8 persons and injuries to 58, while five others were shot dead by police in subsequent rioting. Two separate FIRs were registered at the Hussaini Alam police station regarding the blast as well as recovery of unexploded IED from Mecca Masjid against unknown persons. The two cases were subsequently transferred to CBI. During the course of the investigation, the CBI added the names of six persons to the FIR between June 2010 and November 2010 and arrested three and filed a charge sheet 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 had listed seven accused in the case: Devendra Gupta; Lokesh Sharma; Nabakumar Sarkar alias Swamy Aseemanand alias Ramdas; Bharat Mohanlal Rateswar; Rajender Chowdary; Sandeep V Dange; and Ramchandra Kalsangra. Dange and Kalsangra were shown as absconding.
The NIA accused them of conspiracy to target Muslim places of worship to avenge bomb blasts and terror attacks against Hindus and temples by jihadi terrorists with cross-border support. The chargesheets stated that all of them planned between 2005 and 2007 to commit the acts including the bomb blast at Mecca Masjid.
They were charged under sections 302, 307, 326 and 324 read with 120 (B) IPC, Sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and Sections of Explosive Substances Act, 1908.
The NIA relied heavily on the alleged confessional statement of Swami Aseemanand. The NIA stated that he was filled with remorse and desired to do “prayaschitha’’ and therefore made a confessional statement under 164 CrPC before the Metropolitan Magistrate at Tis Hazari in New Delhi, in which he disclosed the conspiracy and execution of bombing of different places including Mecca Masjid. He subsequently retracted the statement saying that he was under duress to confess.
Of the 230 witnesses examined by the prosecution 35 had turned hostile. One of the main witnesses to be declared hostile was Lt Colonel Shrikant Purohit, who was made a witness by NIA. On February 14 this year, he was declared hostile by the prosecution after he claimed that his statement was never recorded as a witness in connection with Mecca Masjid blast neither by the CBI, which first investigated the case, nor by the NIA which took over the case in 2011. Purohit told the court that he knew Swami Aseemanand and others like Devendra Gupta and Sunil Joshi but only in the capacity as an intelligence officer of Indian Army who was trying to gather information. He denied meeting any of them ever. Lt Col is an accused in the September 29, 2008 bomb blasts at Malegaon, and is presently out on bail.