The Goa bench of the Bombay High Court on Saturday upheld the acquittal of six persons accused of being linked to the Goa-headquartered Sanatan Sanstha, and who were charged by the NIA for a failed bomb blast plot in South Goa’s Margao town in 2009.
Speaking to reporters here, National Investigation Agency (NIA) counsel Pravin Faldessai said that Vinay Talekar, Dhananjay Ashtekar, Prashant Ashtekar, Vinayak Patil, Prashant Juvekar and Dilip Mazgaonkar were acquitted getting “the benefit of the doubt”.
“Today, the HC passed a judgment on an NIA appeal against the acquittal order passed by a Special Judge in the blast case. The High Court considered (the appeal) in larger detail and held that the accused be given the benefit of the doubt,” Faldessai said.
On October 16, 2009, accused Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik ferrying an IED to a Diwali pandal in Margao, 30 km from here, were killed when the improvised explosive device exploded accidentally.
Barring Naik, all the other accused hail from Maharashtra, and were regular visitors to the Sanatan Sanstha ashram in the temple town of Ponda, 30 km from Panaji.
The case was initially investigated by the Goa Police Crime Branch but later handed over to the NIA.
In all, 11 persons were accused of participating in the conspiracy, including the two deceased, even as three persons are still absconding.
On December 31, 2013, a special trial court in Goa acquitted Talekar, Dhananjay and Prashant Ashtekar, Patil, Juvekar and Mazgaonkar, while accusing the NIA of “manipulating” facts to implicate Sanatan Sanstha in the case.
In their order on Saturday, High Court Justices MS Sonak and MS Jawalkar expunged the remarks of the special court regarding the alleged mala-fide intentions of the central agency, the NIA counsel said.
“The Special Judge had said that there were mala fides by the investigating agency… those remarks are now expunged,” Faldessai said.
“There was one major circumstance which we had to prove — this particular Sanstha had the motive to conduct this blast to spread terror in Goa and across India. But the court said there was no proof…,” the counsel said.