Puducherry: Devotees at the Kanchi Mutt today celebrated by bursting fire crackers as the Puducherry Sessions Court acquitted the Sankaracharya Sri Jeyendra Sarasvati and his Deputy Sri Vijayendra Saraswati in the Sankararaman murder case. "It is happy news for all Hindus, all over the country," said a devotee.
Citing lack of evidence, the court set all 24 accused free.
In 2004, the pontiffs were arrested for conspiring to murder Sankararaman who had exposed alleged malpractices and misuse of funds in the mutt.
But as the trial unfolded, the temple manager's family turned hostile. Sankararaman's wife and son reportedly gave contradictory statements. In fact, of the nearly 180 witnesses examined, 83 turned hostile.
The prosecution had claimed that the seers had paid around Rs 30 lakh to contract killers and to another gang to surrender, claiming responsibility.
But the court ruled that the prosecution could not prove the conspiracy and motive. The judge said that the police threatened witnesses to give confessional statements and had kept them in illegal custody.
The acquittal is now being seen as a huge embarrassment for Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, whose government had ordered the arrest of the Kanchi seer and his junior pontiff.
Public Prosecutor N Devadoss told NDTV, "After seeing the order I would report to the government so it could take a call on going on appeal". He denies reports that the prosecution tacitly helped the high profile accused.
But the victim's family say they are disappointed that all the accused, including the real killers, were acquitted. Anand Sharma, son of Sankararaman says, "We were surprised to hear about the acquittal of all including the murderers. Who killed my father then? We believe only in God. Appeal will reveal this".
It's a huge relief for the Sankaracharyars. But even after nine years, there is no answer for who killed Sankararaman.