The Rajasthan high court on Wednesday acquitted four men who were given the death sentence by a lower court for the 2008 Jaipur serial blasts that killed 71 people, and slammed the probe agencies over their "shoddy investigation".
It also affirmed the acquittal of a fifth accused by the trial court.
Jaipur was rocked by a series of blasts on May 13, 2008, when bombs went off one after another at Manak Chawk Khanda, Chandpole Gate, Badi Chaupad, Chhoti Chaupad, Tripolia Gate, Johri Bazar and Sanganeri Gate. The explosions left 71 people dead and 185 injured.
According to advocate S S Ali, the counsel for the accused, the high court lambasted the investigating agencies for doing a shoddy investigation in connecting the chain of evidence.
The court also directed the Rajasthan's director general of police to take action against the officers involved in the investigation.
”We hold that the investigating agency in the given case should be made responsible/accountable for their negligent, cursory, and inefficient actions,” the court said in its order.
”In the given case, for the reasons stated above, in spite of the case being of heinous nature, 71 persons losing their lives and 185 persons sustaining injuries, causing unrest in the lives of every citizen, not just in the city of Jaipur, but all across the country, we deem it appropriate to direct the director general of Rajasthan police to initiate appropriate enquiry/disciplinary proceedings against the erring officers of the investigating team,” observed the court while acquitting the accused persons.
The court said that it is difficult to hold that the prosecution had proved the guilt of the accused by adducing cogent and clinching evidence.
”The circumstantial evidence must be complete and incapable of explanation of any other hypothesis than that of the guilt of the accused and such evidence should not only be consistent with the guilt of the accused but should be inconsistent with his innocence. In the present case(s), the prosecution has failed to do so, resultantly, the Court is left with no alternative but to acquit the accused,” the order said.
The court also observed that it may be true that if accused(s) in a heinous crime go unpunished or are acquitted, a kind of agony and frustration may be caused to society in general and to the family of the victims in particular, however the law does not permit the courts to punish the accused on the basis of moral conviction or on suspicion alone.
Advocate Ali said the court found the entire theory presented by the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), which investigated the case, wrong.
He said the high court issued directions to the chief secretary to monitor the case.
"The ATS failed to prove the travel plan of the accused that they had travelled from Delhi to Jaipur in a bus on May 13, had lunch at a restaurant, purchased cycles, planted bombs and returned the same day to Delhi in Shatabdi Express. The ATS could not produce bus tickets," the counsel said.
Ali said the frame numbers of the cycles mentioned in the bills produced by the ATS did not match with the cycles seized after the blasts and the bills of cycle purchase were tampered with.
"The pellets which the agency said that the accused had purchased from a shop outside Jama masjid in Delhi to plant in the bomb did not match with the pellets found in the dead bodies. The pellets did not match in the FSL report," he said.
"The court said that the allegations against them are not proven. The ATS has failed to establish its theory. The court also said that the ATS did not try to reach the real culprits," Ali added.
In December 2019, a special court gave the death sentence to four men -- Mohammad Saif, Mohammad Salman, Saifur and Mohammad Sarvar Azmi -- and acquitted another accused, Shahbaz Hussain.
While the state government challenged the acquittal of Shahbaz Hussain in the high court, the four awarded capital punishment filed an appeal against the trial court order.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has targeted the Ashok Gehlot government over the investigation by the ATS in the case, saying the judgment cast doubt on the prosecution by the state.
"The Rajasthan high court has acquitted all the accused. The acquittal in such a big crime raises doubts on the prosecution of the Ashok Gehlot government. The manner in which the evidence was presented by the ATS creates doubts. I think this is the height of appeasement of the Congress government," former BJP state president Satish Poonia said.