AF­TER AC­QUIT­TING ALL, JUDGE QUITS

RIGHT-WING AC­TIVIST SWAMI ASEE­M­ANAND AND FOUR OTH­ERS SET FREE IN 2007 MECCA MASJID BLAST CASE

The Free Press Journal - - FRONT PAGE -

Within seven hours of ac­quit­ting right-wing ac­tivist Swami Asee­m­anand and four oth­ers in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case, the judge of the spe­cial anti-ter­ror court in Hyderabad sub­mit­ted his res­ig­na­tion.

Judge K Ravin­der Reddy has cited per­sonal rea­sons for his res­ig­na­tion. But the fact that the res­ig­na­tion let­ter is four pages long has raised eye­brows. So, has the tim­ing of the de­ci­sion. He has also pro­ceeded on leave. In­ci­den­tally, Ravin­dra Reddy was the pres­i­dent of the Te­lan­gana ju­nior judges' as­so­ci­a­tion and due to re­tire in two months.

MIM pres­i­dent Asadud­din Owaisi was the first to re­spond to the res­ig­na­tion. He tweeted to say that he was sur­prised by the de­ci­sion. "The judge who ac­quit­ted all the ac­cused in the Mecca Masjid blast case RE­SIGN­ING is very in­trigu­ing and I am sur­prised at Lord­ship’s de­ci­sion," he said.

The bot­tom fell out of the 11-year-old case within min­utes when the judge ruled that the coun­try's top anti-ter­ror body, the Na­tional In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency (NIA), had failed to prove any­one's guilt.

Asee­m­anand, who hails from Gu­jarat, and four oth­ers were ac­cused of en­gi­neer­ing a mas­sive blast that had ripped through the masjid on May 8, 2007, dur­ing Fri­day prayers, killing nine peo­ple.

The CBI in 2010 had charged that Hindu right wing group Ab­hi­nav Bharat was be­hind the blast. Ac­cord­ing to the chargesheet, the ac­cused were "an­gered by ter­ror­ist at­tacks on Hin­dus and their tem­ples" and wanted to "avenge" them by at­tack­ing Mus­lim places of wor­ship. Asee­m­anand, too, was ar­rested by the CBI in 2010. The charge-sheet said he had made a con­fes­sional state­ment be­fore a mag­is­trate and dis­closed the con­spir­acy be­hind the bomb blasts in dif­fer­ent places, in­clud­ing Mecca Masjid. Asee­m­anand al­legedly re­tracted the state­ment later.

The de­fence had ar­gued that the so-called con­fes­sional state­ment was ex­tracted from Asee­m­anand to cre­ate a the­ory of 'Bhagwa Atankwad' (saf­fron ter­ror)."

Soon af­ter the ver­dict, the Congress and the BJP en­gaged in the usual slugfest. BJP spokesper­son Sam­bit Pa­tra ad­dressed a press con­fer­ence, de­mand­ing an apol­ogy from the Congress for al­legedly coin­ing the phrase ‘saf­fron ter­ror’ dur­ing the UPA rule.Se­nior Congress leader Ghu­lam Nabi Azad, in turn, raised ques­tions about the func­tion­ing of the Na­tional In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency.

"It (ac­quit­tal) is hap­pen­ing in each case since the gov­ern­ment was formed four years ago...peo­ple are los­ing faith in the agen­cies," he told news chan­nels.

Asee­m­anand was also ac­quit­ted last year in the 2007 Ajmer Dar­gah ter­ror at­tack. He is still an ac­cused in the 2007 Samjhauta blasts case.

Me­dia was barred from en­ter­ing the court­room dur­ing the pro­nounce­ment of the judge­ment.

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