The acquittal of all the five accused in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case by the NIA special court in Hyderabad on Monday is bound to prove controversial. The judge Ravinder Reddy noted — not unlike the special CBI judge in the 2-G scam case —that “the prosecution could not prove the case because no evidence was presented to prove the conspiracy” behind the blasts which killed nine persons and injured 58 others. In the riots that followed the blasts, five persons were killed in police firing. The most notable accused in the case was Swami Aseemanand. He walked free on Monday.
Both the CBI and the NIA had investigated the blasts. Curiously, Judge Reddy, nearing superannuation, announced resignation a few hours after pronouncing the verdict. The acquittal led the AIMIM MP, Asaduddin Owaisi, to accuse the NIA of bias. Others of his ilk spoke of a pattern since the advent of the Modi Government in 2014, alleging that the investigating agencies and the police deliberately suppress evidence to ensure acquittal of the accused in cases where Muslims were victims. It is hard to know the validity of the above charge but the fact that in the 2-G case, despite there being an NDA government in place for over four years, the special CBI court lamented the lack of evidence against the accused for the acquittals underlined the woeful lack of professionalism in our police force and investigating agencies. Our investigating agencies lack the requisite tools and manpower to dig out evidence and to ensure that it meets the strict test of judicial scrutiny.
The endemic failure of the police and other investigating agencies is further compounded by the long delays in filing charge-sheet and by the perennially clogged judicial system. Long delays also result in key witnesses turning hostile or even dying of old age or other causes. Besides, frequent transfer of personnel in the police and other agencies disrupts the investigation process. It is significant that despite the serious security and political implications of the Mecca Masjid blasts case, it took eleven years for the judicial verdict to come. Notably, the five accused were connected with a right-wing organisation, Abhinav Bharat, which allegedly also had a hand in similar cases earlier, including the Malegaon bombing, the Samjhauta Express and the Ajmer Sharif blasts.
Aseemanad was acquitted last year in the Ajmer Sharif blasts case. However, it will be wrong to ascribe political motives to the prosecution and the investigating agencies, even if there may be some truth in the charge that with the change of government these began to soft-pedal the case. The reason why we can say this is that in straightforward criminal cases with no political implications, and which have attracted national headlines, the record of the investigating agencies, too, has been nothing to write home about. When you consider the shoddiness of the investigations and prosecutions, say, in the Jessica Lal or the Aarushi Talwar murder cases, you will realise that sloppiness is a way of life with prosecutors and investigators. So, do not rush to ascribe political motives if the accused in the Mecca Masjid blast case have walked free. We are like that only.