A Delhi court on Wednesday acquitted legislator and gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari and six others accused in the 2005 murder case of BJP leader Krishnanand Rai as all the eyewitnesses and material witnesses turned hostile.
The court said had the prosecution witnesses not turned hostile, the outcome of the trial would have been different and highlighted the absence of a witness protection scheme during the trial.
Further, the CBI court held that the investigators failed to prove the charges by not bringing enough evidence against the accused persons who were allegedly responsible for the gruesome killing of seven persons, including Mr Rai.
"This is a gruesome case involving the murder of seven persons. The investigation of the case was transferred from UP Police to CBI. The trial of the case was also transferred from UP to Delhi. Unfortunately, the case of the prosecution has suffered as all the eyewitnesses and other material witnesses turned hostile...
"The case in hand is another example of the prosecution failing due to hostile witnesses. If the witnesses in this case had the benefit of the Witness Protection Scheme, 2018 during the trial, the result may have been different," Special Judge Arun Bhardwaj said while exonerating all the accused.
The trial of the 2005 murder case was transferred from Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh to Delhi by the Supreme Court in 2013 on a plea filed by Alka Rai, the wife of Krishnanand Rai, who was a member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly representing the Mohammadabad constituency from 2002 to 2007. He was killed on November 29, 2005, along with six others.
Ansari, the MLA from Mau in Uttar Pradesh, has several criminal cases against him, including that of murder and abduction.
Earlier, the Allahabad High Court had directed a CBI inquiry into Mr Rai's killing.
Challenging the high court order, the Uttar Pradesh government had moved the Supreme Court, which refused to allow its plea saying the case deserved to be probed by the country's premier investigating agency.
Besides Ansari, the court also acquitted his brother Afzal Ansari, Azaz-Ul-Haq, Sanjeev Maheshwari, Rakesh Pandey, Ramu Mallah and Mansoor Ansari.
"In the absence of prima facie evidence that the accused persons/assassins were a party to the conspiracy, their acts cannot be used against A-2 Afzal Ansari and A-6 Mukhtar Ansari. Therefore, once the evidence of PW-21 Prem Chand Rai has been rejected, exhortations, if any, cannot implicate A-2 Afzal Ansari and A-6 Mukhtar Ansari in the conspiracy to murder Krishnanand Rai.
"The prosecution has not proved the charge framed against A-1 Azaz-Ul-Haq, A-2 Afzal Ansari, A-6 Mukhtar Ansari, A-7 Sanjeev Maheshwari alias Jeeva, A-8 Rakesh Pandey, A-9 Ramu Mallah and A-13 Mansoor Ansari. They are, therefore, acquitted of the charges framed against them. Their bail bonds and surety bonds are discharged. They have already furnished bonds under section 437-A of the CrPC, which shall remain in force for six months. They be released from custody, if not required in any other case," the court said.