The Delhi high court acquitted S A R Geelani and Navjot Sandhu in the Parliament attack case as the prosecution failed to prove its case.
Though four people - Geelani, Shaukat Hussain Guru, Mohammad Afzal and Navjot Sandhu alias Afsan Guru - were accused of conspiring with the terrorists who attacked Parliament on December 13, 2001, all eyes were on Geelani.
Various human rights groups and intellectuals had come forward in support of the suspended Delhi University lecturer and even formed an association, All India Committee in Defence, to support his cause.
Judges Usha Mehra and Pradeep Nandrajog rejected all evidence submitted against Geelani by the Delhi police.
Delhi police had claimed that Geelani was in constant touch with Shaukat through a mobile phone. They claimed that Shaukat making the first call to Geelani when his mobile phone was activated and the latter responding to Shaukat's call immediately after the attack on Parliament was a pointer to his involvement in the conspiracy.
But the court sai: "When one acquires a mobile phone, it is but natural that one would test it. What other number would one connect other than that of a known person. By itself, with nothing more, we are afraid that conviction cannot be sustained on this evidence."
The judges said it was quite natural for Shaukat to call Geelani from because both knew each other. This did not imply that Geelani was involved in the conspiracy.
"There is no evidence to establish that he (Geelani) remained in touch over the telephone with the terrorists (who were gunned down by security forces). There is no evidence that Geelani was instrumental in arranging hideouts or the chemicals used for manufacture of explosives. There is no evidence of Geelani's involvement in procuring arms and ammunitions."
The police submitted that Shaukat's landlord had seen Geelani visiting his house several times. Both lived in Mukherjee Nagar in north Delhi.
The judges pointed out that the prosecution could not prove the landlord had seen Geelani in the company of the five terrorists, who were gunned down by security forces.
Police had also said that Geelani had a telephonic conversation with his Srinagar-based brother a day after the attack and suggested the latter was also involved in the conspiracy.
In this context, the Supreme Court had ruled that taped telephonic conversations could be considered as evidence.
But the judges said: "Even assuming that the prosecution version was correct, there was nothing which could incriminate Geelani as far as the conversation is concerned."
About Geelani's confessional statement, the judges said: "Since no recoveries were effected pursuant to the disclosure statement, we hold that nothing incriminating against accused S A R Geelani has been brought out by the prosecution on the basis of the disclosure statement."
"The circumstance, in our opinion, do not even remotely, far less definitely and unerringly, point towards the guilt of accused S A R Geelani," the judges said.
The judges also rejected the evidence against Navjot Sandhu. Police had alleged that she was aware of the terrorist activities of her husband, Shaukat Hussain Guru.
As evidence, the police presented a telephonic conversation she had with her husband on December 18, 2001.
But the judges said: "The evidence is border line. Firstly, records show that the duration of the call was 49 seconds. But Dr Rajinder Singh, who conducted the auditory and voice spectography analysis of the taped conversation, was categorical that the tape sent to him was of 2 minutes and 19 seconds."
The court said the discrepancy weakened the case of the prosecution. Besides, it was not convinced that a conversation with her husband or knowing the five terrorists (who were gunned down) was sufficient proof about her involvement in the conspiracy.
On the death sentence to Shaukat and Afzal, the judges said the duo deserved nothing less. "Indeed, after the unfortunate incident, this country had to station its troops at the border and large scale mobilisation of the armed forces took place. The clouds of war with our neighbour loomed large for a long period of time. The nation suffered not only an economic strain but even the trauma of an imminent war."
With inputs from PTI