NIA court acquits all 5 accused in Mecca Masjid blast case, judge quits
New Delhi: Hours after acquitting all five suspects in the 2007 Mecca Masjid bomb blast case in Hyderabad, the special court judge resigned on Monday.
Judge Ravinder Reddy of the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court, who cited lack of evidence for the acquittals, gave no reason for his sudden resignation.
Nine people were killed and 58 injured when a blast rocked Friday prayers at the Mecca Masjid on 18 May 2007. The NIA did not state whether it would appeal against the acquittal.
“NIA will examine the court judgment after getting a copy of the same and decide a further course of action after that,” said a senior agency official, who did not wish to be identified.
A total of 10 people allegedly belonging to a group called Abhinav Bharat were accused of plotting and carrying out the blasts. However, only five of them —Devendra Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Swami Aseemanand alias Naba Kumar Sarkar, Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar alias Bharat Bhai and Rajendra Chowdhary— were arrested and brought to trial. These were the men who were acquitted by the court on Monday.
Two of the accused—Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange—are absconding, while another key accused—Sunil Joshi—was shot dead while the matter was under still investigation.
After the initial investigation by the Andhra Pradesh police, the case was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which filed a chargesheet. The case was transferred to the NIA in April 2011.
A total of 226 witnesses were examined during the trial, in the course of which 64 of them turned hostile.
Following the verdict, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) launched a scathing attack on the Congress, for the stance that the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had taken in labelling the Mecca Masjid attack as “Hindu terror”.
“The BJP does not comment on the judgment of the court. We don’t comment on the working of the Indian judiciary. It is an independent body… now after the court verdict on Mecca Masjid blast, the party (Congress) stands exposed. Will Rahul Gandhi take out a midnight march with a lighted lamp and apologise for defaming the Hindu religion,” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said.
Hitting back at the BJP, the Congress blamed the “ineffectiveness” of agencies under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
“It (acquittal) is happening in each case since the government was formed four years ago...people are losing faith in the agencies and NIA functions under the BJP government,” senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
Yunus Y. Lasania from Hyderabad contributed to this story.