Kanchi seer Jayendra Saraswathi, who heads the Kanchi Kamakothi Peetham or Kanchi Mutt, was on Friday acquitted along with eight others in an assault case from 2002. They were accused of targeting an auditor, Radhakrishnan, who they believed was trying to point out irregularities in the Mutt. Saraswathi had appeared before the Chennai court on March 29 and claimed all the charges against him were false, The Hindu reported. He responded to most questions in court by saying “I do not know” or gesturing “no” with his hand.

The incident took place on September 20, 2002, when Radhakrishnan and his wife were attacked at their home in Mandaveli, Chennai, and sustained serious injuries. The auditor had supposedly pointed out that Saraswathi and his followers had misappropriated gold meant for the Kamakshi temple, among other issues.

While the police did not treat the case very seriously at first, they took it up after the religious leader was embroiled in the brutal murder of A Sankararaman, a vocal critic of the Mutt, in 2004. Saraswathi and 11 others were then chargesheeted for criminal conspiracy and attempt to murder in the 2002 case.

The court battle following the assault has been replete with irregularities, with the approver Ravi Subramaniam turning hostile, as did five other witnesses. Another 10 witnesses have died during the course of the trial.

The next hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.