Lawyers in Mumbai Saturday welcomed the Supreme Court judgment acquitting all six convicts, including two on the death row, in the 2002 Akshardham temple terror attack in Gandhinagar.
Lawyer Gulzar Aazmi of the Jamiat Ulama-E-Maharashtra (JUeM) (AM) said: "The prosecution failed to establish the guilt by the accused beyond reasonable doubt and they deserved exoneration from all the charges."
The JUeM (AM) provided free legal aid to the accused in the case.
"The JUeM (AM) hired the services of top criminal lawyers, including former solicitor-general Amrindar Sharan, for pleading the case of the innocent Muslim youth. They were wrongly convicted by the designated POTA court and later the sentencing was confirmed by the Gujarat High Court," Azmi told IANS.
He termed it as "a major setback to the Gujarat government" on the eve of Chief Minister Narendra Modi demitting office to take over as the new prime minister of India.
Allowing the convicts' pleas against the conviction and sentencing in the case, a Supreme Court division bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice V.G. Gowda Friday held that the prosecution failed to establish their guilt beyond reasonable doubts and they deserved exoneration from all charges.
The apex court also nixed the confessional statements of the convicts as being invalid in law and said the prosecution could not establish that they participated in any conspiracy.
The appeals by two convicts sentenced to death - Adambhai Sulemanbhai Ajmeri and Abdul Qayum - were allowed. Mohammed Hanif Shaikh, Abdullamiya Yasin Kadri and two others were sentenced to varying jail terms ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment.
Drawing parallels between the investigations into the alleged fake gun battle of Sohrabuddin and the Sep 25, 2002, Akshardham temple attack, the convicts said the terrorists involved in both the cases were killed by NSG commandos.
The convicts said they were arrested after investigations conducted by then deputy Superintendent of Police D.G. Vanzara, who is now facing trial in the Sohrauddin fake gun battle case.
Among other things, the convicts alleged that the Gujarat government was "notorious for conducting investigations in a totally partial and unjust manner".
On Sep 24, 2002, two terrorists fired indiscriminately from their AK-56 assault rifles and lobbed hand grenades at the Akshardham temple in Gujarat's capital Gandhinagar.
At least 33 people were killed and over 80 injured before the National Security Guard commandos managed to gun down the attackers.