A special court that acquitted all four accused in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blast case said there were “gaping holes” in the prosecution’s evidence, PTI reported. The judge said the “dastardly act of violence” went unpunished for “want of credible and admissible evidence”.

Religious leader Aseemanand, Lokesh Sharma, Kamal Chauhan and Rajinder Chaudhary were acquitted on March 20. The explosion, which took place on February 18, 2007, had killed 68 people, including 10 Indians. In its chargesheet, the National Investigation Agency said the blast had targeted Pakistani Muslims. Samjhauta Express connects India and Pakistan.

Special court judge Jagdeep Singh, in his 160-page order, said the prosecution had withheld the “best evidence” and that some of the independent witnesses were never examined or sought to be declared hostile when they chose to not support the prosecution’s case, The Indian Express reported. The court’s order was made public on Thursday.

The order said: “I have to conclude this judgment with deep pain and anguish as a dastardly act of violence remained unpunished for want of credible and admissible evidence. There are gaping holes in the prosecution evidence and an act of terrorism has remained unsolved.”

The court said there was no evidence regarding any agreement to commit the crime in this case. “No concrete oral, documentary or scientific evidence has been brought on record to connect the accused, facing the trial, with the crime in question,” the order said. “There is not an iota of evidence to make out any motive on the part of the accused to indulge in the crime.”

The judge said a court cannot proceed on popular or predominant public perception or the political discourse of the day, and needs evidence on record to arrive at a conclusion.

On witnesses turning hostile, the judge called for “a sound and workable witness protection scheme”. Of 299 witnesses in the case, 224 deposed before the court, of which 51 were said to have turned hostile.

The court praised security personnel, who saved passengers on board the train, and recognised Assistant Sub-Inspector Kashmir Singh’s role in saving lives.

The court said a “malaise has set in investigating agencies” that have coined terms like Muslim terrorism and Hindu fundamentalism. “A criminal element, belonging to a particular religion, community or caste, cannot be projected as representative of such particular religion, community or caste...” it said, according to PTI.