A Delhi court on Wednesday acquitted Uttar Pradesh legislator Mukhtar Ansari, his MP-brother Afzal Ansari and five others in the 2005 murder of then BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai and six others, as all eyewitnesses and material witnesses turned hostile.
Special Judge Arun Bhardwaj, who dealt on various aspects, including whether there was an enmity between the Ansaris and Rai, held that when a contestant loses Assembly elections, “it will not result in enmity of such nature and enormity that he will think of murdering his opponent who defeated him”.
The court also noted, “This is a gruesome case involving murder of seven persons. The investigation of the case was transferred from UP Police to the CBI. The trial of the case was also transferred from UP to Delhi. Unfortunately, the case of the prosecution has suffered as all eyewitnesses and other material witnesses turned hostile”.
In its 478-page order, the court observed that the Supreme Court has noted that the Central government has now finalised Witness Protection Scheme, 2018, and that the scheme is to be “enforced in letter and spirit by the Union of India and States and Union Territories”.
“The case in hand is another example of prosecution failing due to hostile witnesses. If the witnesses in this case had the benefit of Witness Protection Scheme, 2018, during trial, the result may have been different,” it stated.
Rai, then MLA of Mohammadabad, UP, having defeated Afzal Ansari in the 2002 Assembly polls, was murdered, along with six others, on November 29, 2005.
The FIR was registered on the basis of a written complaint from the slain BJP leader’s brother, Ram Narain Rai, stating that Rai was returning after inaugurating a cricket match in his constituency with others when some people with automatic and semi-automatic weapons waylaid them and opened fire on his vehicle. The assailants allegedly said that Rai was pestering Mukhtar and Afzal, according to the complainant.
The prosecution argued that there was political rivalry between Rai and the Ansari brothers, which the defence counsel opposed, and said, “The accused has been falsely implicated due to group rivalry.”
The court agreed to the defence’s contention and observed that Afzal Ansari’s defeat to Rai in 2002 had, in fact, come as a “blessing in disguise in as much as he won the election of Member of Parliament from Ghazipur constituency in 2004”.
The court held, “Afzal Ansari was MLA of UP Assembly since 1984. However, when he lost the (2002) election to Krishnanand Rai, he got an opportunity to contest the (Lok Sabha) election, which is (a) more prestigious election… So there was no reason for Afzal Ansari to nurture ill-will for the deceased.” There were 13 accused in the case. Of them, Mukhtar Ansari, Sanjeev Maheshwari and Azaz were in jail; four others were out on bail.
The CBI had filed closure report against one accused, three are absconding, and two have died.
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