Judge Who Acquitted Swami Aseemanand, 4 Others in Mecca Masjid Blast Case Resigns

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Hyderabad: Hours after acquitting right-wing activist Swami Aseemanand and four others in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case, the judge at the special anti-terror court in Hyderabad submitted his resignation on Monday.

K Ravinder Reddy cited personal reasons for his resignation. But the timing of the decision has raised questions.

Earlier in the day, he had ruled that the prosecution failed to prove charges against the five accused, 11 years after a massive blast had ripped through the Mecca Masjid on May 8, 2007, during Friday prayers, killing nine people and wounding 58.

AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi tweeted to say 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 said.

Apart from Aseemanand, those acquitted were Devendra Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar alias Bharat Bhai and Rajendra Chowdhary. Ten people with alleged links to Hindu right wing organisations were accused in the case. However, only five of them who were acquitted on Monday faced trial.

Soon after the verdict, the Congress and the BJP engaged in a war of words. 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.

“Saffron terror was a very derogatory term. Will Rahul Gandhi step out with a candle at midnight to apologise for it,” Patra asked.

Speaking to News18, Congress leader Shivraj Patil, who was the Union home minister when the blast took place, denied his party had coined the term.

“Most of the witnesses have gone hostile. What questions were asked in the cross-examination to the witnesses has to be seen… Why should I apologise to anyone? The Congress never mislead the nation. I cannot give judgment on something that has not been said by the Congress party,” Patil said.

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad also raised questions on the functioning of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) after the acquittal. "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.

Owaisi alleged that the blast case had not been pursued properly by anti-terror investigative agency NIA. Asserting that "justice hasn't been done in the case," Owassi said "questions would be raised over the criminal justice system (of the country) if such biased prosecutions continue."