Mumbai: Eight Muslim men accused of carrying out bomb blasts in Maharashtra's Malegaon in 2006 were made scapegoats by the Anti-Terrorist Squad, a Mumbai court has said.
NDTV quoted special Judge VV Patil as saying in his order, "It appears to me that as the accused had criminal antecedents, they became scapegoats at the hands of the ATS."
The judge had added that ATS officers "merely on suspicion" had projected the accused as the authors of the blast.
However, special Judge Patil also said that "the officers had no animosity towards the accused persons, therefore, in my view as they discharged their public duty but in a wrong way".
But, at the same time, the judge went on to say, that it was "highly impossible" that the accused would have "decided to kill their own people to create disharmony between two communities that too on a holy day, Shab-e-Baarat".
Ten years after a series of bombs exploded in Malegaon killing 37 people, a special court yesterday had dropped charges against eight Muslim youths due to lack of evidence against them.
The accused, including two doctors, were discharged by VV Patil, Designated Judge trying cases under Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).
The serial bomb blasts outside a cemetry near Hamidia Mosque at Malegaon, near Nashik, on September 8, 2006, had also left over 100 persons injured.
Bombs were planted on bicycles parked near the cemetry and they went off after Friday prayers at the Mosque on the occasion of Shab-e-Baraat.
Nine accused, suspected to have links with Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), were initially arrested in the case and chargesheeted by the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS).
One of them died while the case was pending.
Four others, including a Pakistan national, are absconding.
Later, CBI, which took over investigations, also confirmed the charges against them.
Subsequently, in 2011, NIA was asked to probe the case and the agency arrested another set of people belonging to the majority community, who continue to be accused in the case.
However, the case took a turn when Swami Assemanand, an accused in the 2007 Mecca Masjis bombing case, allegedly revealed to the probe agency about the role of a Hindu right wing outfit in the 2006 Malagaon blasts case.
Thereafter, NIA told the court that it had no evidence against the nine accused in the case.
(With PTI inputs)