Swami Aseemanand was acquitted by the court on Monday. A special anti-terror court today acquitted Hindutva preacher Swami Aseemanand and four others in the Mecca Masjid blast case, holding that the prosecution failed to prove "even a single allegation" against them.
Barely hours after pronouncing the judgement, in a dramatic development, K Ravinder Reddy, the special judge for NIA cases, tendered his resignation, citing "personal" reasons.
Reddy said his resignation had nothing to do with today's judgement, according to a senior judicial officer.
Responding to the news All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi said that he was surprised by the decision.
"Judge who gave acquittal to all accused in Mecca Masjid Blast RESIGNS very intriguing and I am surprised with the Lordship decision," he tweeted.
Earlier, the special NIA court said that the prosecution failed to prove charges against them.
The blast at the historic Mecca Masjid on May 18, 2007 during Friday prayers had also left 58 others injured. Ten persons allegedly belonging to right-wing organisations were named as accused in the case.
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 faced trial in the case.
Two other accused Sandeep V Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra are still absconding while another accused Sunil Joshi died. Investigations were continuing against two other accused.
Aseemanand's counsel, J P Sharma, told reporters after the verdict by a metropolitan court for NIA cases that "The prosecution failed to prove allegations against the five accused who faced trial in the case and hence the court acquitted them".
Reacting to the acquittal of all accused, former bureaucrat RVS Mani said he was not surprised by the verdict as he had expected this.
“I had expected it. All the pieces of evidence were engineered, otherwise, there was no Hindu terror angle,” Mani, former Under Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, said.
“People who perpetrated attack were protected through misuse of agency (NIA), this is what is alarming. How do you compensate those who suffered and were maligned? Will Congress or anyone else who propagated this theory compensate them?” he asked.
Owaisi on hearing the verdict said that NIA didn’t pursue the case as was expected from it. “Justice has not been done,” the Hyderabad MP said.
Senior Congress leader Ashok Gehlot refused to comment on the verdict and left it up to the government to file an appeal.
“It is now up to the government to examine order and decide if a further appeal is required. As it is a judicial matter I would not like to comment on it,” he said.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, however, avoided a query on the acquittal of Aseemanand, which has prompted BJP to seek his apology for his party 'using' terms like "saffron terror" in the past.
"For few votes, the way the Congress party acted to defame the Hindu religion, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi should ask for forgiveness from the whole country," BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said.
The acquittal of five main accused in the sensational case of Mecca Masjid bomb explosion of May 18, 2017, by an NIA special court in Hyderabad on Monday has brought the case back to square one and the question who then planted the bomb in the mosque remains unanswered.
What is interesting is that Swamy Aseemanand, one of the accused in the case, had confessed before the Tis Hazari court in New Delhi in 2010, stating that he was involved in the execution of bombing at Mecca Masjid.
In his confessional statement, Aseemanand had even named one Muslim youth Abdul Kaleem as the reason for his atonement. During his stay in Chanchalguda jail in Hyderabad in connection with the case, he got in touch with Kaleem, who had been jailed and tortured in the past in the same case. “His innocence changed my mind and prompted me to confess my crime,” he reportedly said in the statement.
But Aseemanand subsequently retracted the statement saying that he was under duress to confess. On March 23, 2017, Aseemanand was granted bail and finally, he has been acquitted in the case.