The Rajasthan High Court on March 29 set aside the conviction and death sentence awarded by the trial court to four men in the case of the serial blasts that had killed 71 people and left 200 injured in the Walled City of Jaipur in May 2008. The court also upheld the acquittal of a fifth accused, recorded by the trial court in 2019, and accepted the plea of one of the accused that he was a minor.
In December 2019, a special court in Jaipur had awarded capital punishment to Mohammed Saif, Mohammed Sarwar Azmi, Saifur Rehman and Mohammed Salman after holding them guilty of planting the bombs and carrying out the explosions. The fifth accused, Shahbaz Ahmed, charged with sending an e-mail claiming responsibility for the blasts, was acquitted for lack of evidence.
Acquitting all the accused, a Division Bench of the High Court held that the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Rajasthan police had failed to prove any aspect of the evidence and there was no basis to establish its theory of conspiracy, in which the accused were sought to be implicated. Some of the evidence produced against the accused also appeared to be fabricated, the court said.
The Bench, comprising Justices Pankaj Bhandari and Sameer Jain, passed strictures against the police and gave directions for initiating an inquiry against the investigating officers. The court said that since the statements made by the accused to the police officers were inadmissible as evidence, they could not form the basis for their conviction.
The eight ammonium nitrate-based bombs, which went off at seven places in the Walled City within a span of 20 minutes on May 13, 2008, were strapped to bicycles. The explosives were packed with metal splinters or ball bearings to carry out heavy damage in crowded areas. The bombs exploded at Manak Chowk, Chandpole Gate, Badi Chaupad, Chhoti Chaupad, Tripolia Gate, Johri Bazar and Sanganeri Gate.
The court said that though it was cognizant of the heinousness of the crime, a conviction could not be recorded in the absence of any serious investigation and proof as per law. “The more heinous the crime, the stricter should be the scrutiny,” the Bench observed, while affirming that the conviction could not be done on suspicion alone.
The judgment, delivered after a 48-day-long hearing on the appeals filed by the four persons and the death reference moved by the State government, stated that there was no evidence to prove the allegation of travel of the accused between Delhi and Jaipur and their purchase of the bicycles. The identification of the accused by key witnesses was not reliable and several material witnesses were not examined, according to the court.
The e-mail allegedly sent by Mr. Ahmed taking responsibility for the blasts on behalf of Indian Mujahideen was inadmissible in law, said the court, while upholding his acquittal. Besides, the court accepted the claim that Mr. Salman was a minor at the time of the offence, as this plea was also allowed by the Juvenile Justice Board.
Additional Advocate General Rajesh Maharshi said that the State government would file a special leave petition in the Supreme Court, challenging the acquittal. The Bench directed all the five persons to be set at liberty if not required in any other case or for any other purpose. Mr. Ahmed, who was acquitted earlier, was later booked in a case registered for a bomb which was defused, but was granted bail in that case.
Source: The Hindu
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