The Gauhati High Court on Thursday acquitted all six persons accused in the 2004 Dhemaji bomb blast, citing the lack of sufficient evidence.

Eighteen people, including 13 school children, were killed in a bomb blast on August 15, 2004, at the Dhemaji College ground. Banned militant group United Liberation Front of Asom had taken responsibility for the explosion, which had taken place during Independence Day celebrations.

In July 2019, a Dhemaji court had sentenced four accused persons – Dipanjali Buragohain, Muhi Handique, Jatin Dowari and Leela Gogoi – to life imprisonment. It had also pronounced four-year jail terms for two other convicts – Prashanta Bhuyan and Hemen Gogoi.

However, on Thursday, a High Court bench comprising Michael Zothankhuma and Mridul Kumar said that the trial court had convicted the accused persons based on “suspicion and speculation”, rather than on the basis of the evidence put forward by the prosecution witnesses.

The court said that the circumstantial evidence did not form “an unbroken chain that leads to the only possible inference” that the accused persons were guilty of the crime.

“In fact, there is no evidence at all, except the statements made under Section 164 CrPC [recording of confessions and statements before magistrate], which are not supported/corroborated by evidence,” the court said. “Further, the Judicial Officer recording the same, has not given reasons for believing the same were made voluntary, as required in law.”

The bench said that there was no evidence of a conspiracy to engage in an illegal act and no evidence to prove that the accused persons were members of the United Liberation Front of Asom.

The High Court said that the trial court had convicted Buragohain and Handique on the grounds that mobile handsets that had been seized were used to make calls to leaders of the militant outfit. However, it said that the prosecution had not been able to prove what the nature of the communication was, and whether it had anything to do with the bomb blast.

On the verdict, Tarulata Saikia – the mother of 14-year-old Girin Saikia, who lost his life in the blast – demanded that the Central Bureau of Investigation should look into the case, PTI reported. She said that the police’s delay in filing the chargesheet denied justice to the victims of the explosion.

“We cannot comment on the High Court’s judgement but we were hoping that the guilty will be punished,” she said.