GUWAHATI: The Gauhati High Court acquitted all 13 accused, including prominent militants-turned-politicians Niranjan Hojai and Jewel Gorlosa, along with former chief executive member of NC Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC), Mohet Hojai, on August 10.
Chief Justice Sandeep Mehta and Justice Mitali Thakuria, constituting the division bench, set aside the verdict of the NIA Special Court from May 2017 due to a lack of compelling evidence.
The NIA court had found the individuals guilty in the alleged diversion of developmental funds of NCHAC towards arming and supporting the activities of the militant faction Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel faction) (DHD-J).
The case had implicated not only leaders of the said terrorist group but also government employees. It marked the inaugural investigation conducted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in Assam.
In a comprehensive 230-page judgment, the high court scrutinised the evidence presented by the prosecution and found it inadequate to substantiate the core allegations against DHD(J). The high court underlined that the trial court’s conclusions about DHD(J) being a terrorist outfit, and the funds being misappropriated for arming the group, were based on evidence that wasn’t legally admissible or reliable.
The high court also expressed its concern over the absence of key witnesses, particularly the principal secretary to the NCHAC, whose insights could have shed light on fund diversion. Notably, this crucial witness was not examined, prompting the court to question the thoroughness of the investigation.
The court criticised the investigation agency for not thoroughly probing the allegations of fund misappropriation, criminal misconduct, and forgery.
The court’s order stated that, the acquitted individuals, including Jewel Garlosa, Niranjan Hojai, and Mohet Hojai, who are currently in custody, would be released if they are not sought in any other case. The remaining accused, who are out on bail, had their bail bonds discharged.