Aurangabad arms haul: First bail in seven years

The Bombay High Court Monday granted bail to an accused in the famous Aurangabad arms haul case of 2006, making it the first bail application approved in seven years to any accused in the case.

Javed Ahmed Abdul Majeed Ansari, who had allegedly helped a co-accused park a vehicle laden with arms and ammunition, secured bail against surety of Rs.50,000, said his lawyer Sharif Shaikh.

The bail order was delivered by Justice Abhay Thipsay through video-conference from the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court, where he is currently posted.

The matter had been earlier argued before Justice Thipsay while he was posted in Mumbai. During pendency of the case, he was transferred to Aurangabad.

In his bail application filed in July this year, Ansari had pleaded that the trial has been pending since 2006 and all the 22 accused were languishing in jail without trial.

The bail plea was moved by the lawyers of the NGO Jamiat Ulama-e-Maharashtra (JUeM) which provides free legal aid to Muslim youth arrested on charges of terrorism across India.

JUeM lawyers Yug Chaudhary, Sharif Shaikh, Ansar Tamboli, Shahid Nadeem Ansari and Mateen Shaikh argued the matter at various points.

"This is the first bail granted to any of the accused who have been languishing in jail as undertrials in the past seven years," lawyer Sharif Shaikh said.

Shaikh had argued that there is no prima facie evidence against the accused Ansari. He had not given any confession statement, and none of the co-accused had mentioned his name in their confession statements.

"The charges were framed against all the accused last year. So far, out of 247, only four witnesses have been examined by the court," Ansari said in his bail plea.

Lawyer Chaudhary argued during the hearing that the only allegation against Ansari was that he had moved computer boxes containing arms and ammunition from one place to another, and he helped in parking an empty car at a warehouse in Malegaon of Nashik district.

"The accused had no knowledge of the contents of the computer boxes in the Tata Indica car, so there is no evidence that he was the part of a conspiracy," he argued.

Strongly opposing the bail application, Special Public Prosecutor Raja Thakre contended that Ansari was deeply involved in the conspiracy, and granting him bail would influence the witnesses and send a wrong signal to the masses.

He further said that if the court considered the bail plea, the remaining accused would also move the court on the same grounds.

The Aurangabad arms haul case was cracked by the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) when a team of sleuths intercepted a Tata Sumo coming from Manmad and bound for Aurangabad on May 9, 2006.

After a hot chase, police finally managed to intercept it and nab one man, Mohammed Amir Shakil Ahmed, while two others escaped.

A search of the vehicle revealed an arms cache of 10 AK-47 army assault rifles, 40 magazine pouches and 30 kg black explosives.

Three days later, the ATS intercepted a Tata Indica car without a registration number near Nashik and later the investigator recovered two boxes of arms from a gutter on the outskirts of Manmad.

A couple of days later, May 14, 2006, the ATS recovered five computer cabinet boxes from an electrical shop containing five AK-47 rifles, five packs of 100 cartridges, five packs of 20 magazines, and 13 kg of explosive powder.

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