Charges against eight Muslim youths accused in the 2006 Malegaon bomb blasts case were on Monday dropped by a special court in Mumbai due to lack of evidence against them.
The accused were discharged by V V Patil, Designated Judge of Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, nearly 10 years after the serial bomb blasts outside a Muslim cemetry near a Mosque at Malegaon, near Nashik, on September 8, 2006, killing 37 people and leaving over 100 injured.
Bombs were planted on a bicycle parked near the cemetry while Friday prayers were on at the Mosque on the occasion of Shab-e-Baraat.
Nine accused were initially arrested in the case and chargesheeted by the Anti Terrorism Squad. One of them died while the case was pending. Later, the Central Bureau of Investigation, which took over the investigations, also confirmed the charges against them.
Subsequently, the National Investigation Agency was asked to probe the case and the agency arrested another set of people belonging to the majority community, who continue to be accused in the case.
The judge said that he was accepting the discharge application filed by the eight accused as there was no evidence to prove their guilt.
All the eight accused discharged from the case were on bail and came to the court to hear the verdict on their plea.
As soon as the judge pronounced the order, tears trickled down their eyes and their faces brightened up with smiles as they hugged their kith and kin who were accompanying them.
The NIA had informed the court that the evidence collected by it -- after further investigation in the case -- was not in consonance with the evidence collected earlier by the ATS and the CBI.
"No evidence was found in support of conclusion drawn in the final report filed by the ATS and supplementary final report submitted by the CBI recommending prosecution of the nine accused", the NIA said and urged the court to pass appropriate orders in view of this submission.
Of the nine accused hailing from the powerloom town Malegaon, eight applied for discharge from the case saying the court had powers to free them from the charges framed against them even before the trial.
Of the eight accused, two are doctors by profession.
One accused passed away while the case was pending. The charges against him would be abated.
Four others --Riaz Ahmed Rafi Ahmed, Istiyak Ahmed Mohammed Issak, Munwar Ahmed Mohammed Amin and Muzammil (from Pakistan) -- are absconding. They would be tried as and when they are caught, said the public prosecutor.
The eight men, who have been set free, would not face the trial in the case, which is yet to begin.
They are Narul Hooda Samsuda, Raes Ahmed Rajab Ali Mansoori, doctors Salman Farsi Abdul and Farok Iqbal Ahmed Mukdoomi, Shaikh Mohammed Ali Alam Anamat Ali Shaikh, Asif Khan Bashir Khan, Mohammed Jahid Abdul Majid Ansari and Abrar Ahmed Ghulam Ahmed.
The NIA has arrested another set of accused in this csae. They are identified as Manohar Nariwala alias Sumer Thakur, Rajendra Chowdhary alias Dashrath, Dhan Singh and Lokesh Sharma.
The agency has filed chargesheet against them and all of them are currently in jail pending trial.
A series of bomb blasts on September 8, 2006, in Malegaon, rattled the town in Nashik district of Maharashtra, located about 290 kms from Mumbai.
The explosions -- which resulted in death of 37 persons besides injuring another 125 -- occurred near a Muslim cemetery, adjacent to a mosque, at around 1.15 pm after the Friday prayers on Shab-e-Baraat, the holy day.
Most of the victims were Muslim pilgrims. Security forces said there were "two bombs attached to bicycles," but some other reports indicated that three devices had exploded.
A stampede ensued after the devices exploded. A curfew was imposed in the town and state paramilitaries were deployed in sensitive areas to prevent unrest.