The National Investigation Agency Special Court here on Wednesday sentenced two Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) workers to life imprisonment in the 2007 Ajmer dargah blast case in which three persons were killed. The convicts are Bhavesh Patel, 39, and Devendra Gupta, 41. This is the first-ever conviction and sentencing of the RSS cadre in a terror case.
Handing down life sentence to the two convicts, Special Judge Dinesh Gupta directed the NIA to file closure report in connection with senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar, self-styled godwoman Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and an accused Ramesh Gohil about their role in the blast at the 13th century dargah of Sufi mystic Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.
In one of the charge sheets, the names of Mr. Kumar and Pragya Thakur had appeared as suspects, though they were not formally named as accused, since the probe against them was “kept pending.” The charge sheet claimed that Mr. Kumar had addressed a secret meeting of activists in Jaipur’s Gujarati Samaj guest house and asked them to work by associating themselves with some religious groups so as to avoid suspicion.
The NIA later submitted to the court that it had not found any prosecutable evidence against the two suspects. The court has fixed March 28 for deciding whether it would accept or reject the closure report. The NIA will also submit a report on three absconding accused in the case.
Both Bhavesh and Devendra were held guilty under Sections 16 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Sections 3/4 of the Explosive Substances Act and Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. The court also imposed a fine of Rs. 10,000 on Bhavesh and Rs. 5,000 on Devendra.
Bhavesh was an RSS activist at his hometown Bharuch in Gujarat, while Devendra, a resident of Ajmer, worked for the RSS in Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. The third convict, Sunil Joshi, who was an RSS pracharak, was shot dead in Dewas in December 2007.
The court had acquitted seven accused, including self-styled monk and former RSS activist Aseemanand, in the dargah case on March 8.
Defence counsel Jagdish Rana said the convicts would file an appeal against the judgment in the High Court. However, Sarwar Chishti, a khadim (worker) at the dargah on whose complaint the first FIR was registered, said it should have been treated as the rarest of rare case for death penalty.