More than nine years after the September 2006 Malegaon blast that killed at least 37 people, a court in Mumbai today dropped charges framed against nine Muslim youths for their alleged role in the incident due to lack of evidence. One of the accused has died in the meantime.
The order was passed by Sessions Judge V V Patil while hearing a discharge applications filed by the accused.
It comes just a day after Chief Justice of India T S Thakur lamenting the tardy pace of justice delivery in India, which he blamed on the paucity of judges. It is also a pointer to the investigative process of Indian agencies.
Reacting to the development, Raees Ahmed, one of the discharged accused, said, ''Though late but I am happy that justice has been finally delivered.''
AMIM leader and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, however, slammed the National Investigative Agency over its faulty probe into the case.
While one of the accused in the case is dead, six were released in 2011 on bail. Two other accused have been convicted in the 2006 train blast case.
The National Investigation Agency had last week told a Mumbai court it has found no evidence to link nine Muslims arrested in the 2006 Malegaon blasts case to the terror attack, a move that paved the way for their release.
The NIA also did not object to the discharge applications filed by the arrested accused, saying evidence collected by it was "not in consonance" with that obtained earlier by the Maharashtra Anti-terrorism Squad and the Central Bureau of Investigation, which had recommended their prosecution.
"It is submitted that evidence collected by NIA in further investigation is not in consonance with evidence collected by the Anti-Terrorism Squad and the CBI. The court may kindly pass appropriate orders in the matter," the anti-terror agency told a special NIA court in response to discharge applications filed by the nine accused.
It said no evidence was found in support of the conclusion drawn in final reports filed by ATS and CBI, which had probed the case earlier, and recommended prosecution of the accused arrested in connection with the 8 September 2006 explosions that killed 37 people and wounded 125.
The 2006 bombings were part of a series of explosions that had rocked Malegaon, a communally sensitive power-loom town in Nashik district of Maharashtra, about 300 km from Mumbai. The blasts had occurred in a Muslim cemetery adjacent to a mosque after Friday prayers on Shab-e-Barat.
The Maharashtra ATS, which first probed the case, had arrested Noorul Huda Samsudoha, Shabbir Ahmed Masiullah, Raees Ahmed Rajab Ali Mansuri, Salman Farsi Abdul Latif Aimi, Farogh Iqbal Ahmed Magdumi, Mohammad Ali Alam Sheikh, Asif Khan Bashir Khan alias Junaid, Mohammad Zahid Abdul Majid Ansari and Abrar Ahmed Gulam Ahmed.
The case was later handed over to the CBI, which endorsed the findings of Maharashtra ATS, before it was transfered to NIA after it came into existence in 2009.
After the confessions made by Swami Aseemanand, an accused in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast, the role of Hindu right wing organisation 'Abhinav Bharat' in the blasts came to light.
Following Aseemanand's confession, the accused moved the court with discharge applications. In May this year, NIA filed its charge sheet in the case against four accused-- Lokesh Sharma, Dhan Singh, Manohar Singh and Rajendra Choudhary, contradicting the findings of the ATS and the CBI.
Malegaon had seen another terror attack on 29 September 2008, also allegedly masterminded by 'Abhinav Bharat', in which seven persons were killed.