A SPECIAL NIA court on Wednesday acquitted Swami Aseemanand and six others in the 2007 Ajmer Dargah blast case, giving them the “benefit of doubt”. The court, however, convicted three persons, including two who have been identified as “RSS pracharaks” in the court records. Besides Abhinav Bharat member Aseemanand, the others who were acquitted Wednesday are Harshad Solanki, Chandrashekhar Leve, Mukesh Vasani, Lokesh Sharma, Mehul alias Mafat Bhai alias Maheshbhai Gohil and Bharat Mohan Lal Ratishwar.
Judge Dinesh Gupta found former RSS pracharaks Devendra Gupta and Sunil Joshi (who was killed in December 2007) guilty, along with Bhavesh Patel, under Sections 120B and 295 A of the IPC, Sections 3 and 4 of the Explosive Substances Act and Sections 15,16 and 18 of the UAPA Act.
“We don’t know why Aseemanand was acquitted despite his confessional statement. We can only know that once the full judgment is pronounced,” public prosecutor Ashwini Sharma told The Indian Express. “The court found three guilty. Since Joshi is deceased, there was no observation about him, but he was convicted too.”
After his arrest in 2011, Aseemanand had confessed to his role in leading, planning and helping the execution of several blasts targeting minorities across India “to avenge attacks on Hindu temples”. Though Aseemanand later retracted his confession, the NIA chargesheeted him in three cases — Ajmer, Samjhauta Express and Mecca Masjid (Hyderabad) blasts.
In all these cases, Aseemanand has been accused of taking part in the conspiracy meetings and being the key motivator of the group that executed the blasts. The blast at the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer on October 11, 2007 killed three people and injured 17 others. The case was first investigated by the Rajasthan ATS, and transferred to the NIA in 2011. The NIA filed three supplementary chargesheets, besides the original one filed by the ATS.
Of the total 14 who were accused in the case, one is dead (Sunil Joshi) while four — Ramchandra alias Ramji Kalsangra, Sandeep Dange, Suresh Nair and Prince alias Amit Hakla — are absconding. Senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar was earlier given a clean chit by the NIA, which is yet to be accepted by the court.
According to the NIA’s chargesheets, Bhavesh Patel, a resident of Bharuch in Gujarat, had made over a dozen calls to Joshi in the run-up to the blast. The special court will pronounce the quantum of the sentence after hearing arguments from both sides on March 16. The court also fined both Devendra Gupta and Bhavesh Patel Rs 1 lakh each.
The Ajmer blast case saw several twists and turns with 26 of the total 149 witnesses turning hostile during the course of the trial. Of the 26, most of them had testified before a magistrate under Section 164 of the CrPC. Aseemanand is also an accused in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blasts case and in the Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blast case. While he was granted bail in the first case by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in August 2014, trial in the Mecca Masjid case began only one-and-a-half months ago.
— With ENS, Delhi