Samjhauta Express blast case: NIA court to rule on plea seeking examination of Pakistani eyewitnesses on 20 March

A special court hearing the 2007 Samjhauta train bombing case will give its ruling on the plea filed by a Pakistani woman for examining eyewitnesses from her country on 20 March

Press Trust of India March 18, 2019 22:09:17 IST
Samjhauta Express blast case: NIA court to rule on plea seeking examination of Pakistani eyewitnesses on 20 March
  • A court hearing the Samjhauta train bombing case will give its ruling on the plea seeking examining of Pakistani eyewitnesses on 20 March

  • Rahila Wakeel, the daughter of blast victim Muhammad Wakeel of Hafizabad district in Pakistan, sought examination of eyewitnesses from her country

  • The blast in Samjhauta Express occurred near Panipat in Haryana on 18 February, 2007 killing 68, mostly Pakistani nationals

Panchkula: A special court here, hearing the 2007 Samjhauta train bombing case, will give its ruling on the plea filed by a Pakistani woman for examining eyewitnesses from her country on Wednesday.

The special NIA court posted the matter for hearing for 20 March after arguments on the application were concluded on Monday. "The court adjourned the matter for 20 March for order on the application filed last week," NIA counsel Rajan Malhotra said.

Samjhauta Express blast case NIA court to rule on plea seeking examination of Pakistani eyewitnesses on 20 March

File image of Samjhauta Express after the blasts. Reuters

In a last-minute application to the anti-terror court, Rahila Wakeel, the daughter of blast victim Muhammad Wakeel of Hafizabad district in Pakistan, sought examination of eyewitnesses from her country. She had contended that her co-nationals either did not receive proper summonses from the court or were denied visas by authorities to appear before it.

However, the National Investigating Agency (NIA), which is probing the case, argued that summons were sent through proper channels on three occasions, but no responses were received. The NIA also said that Rahila "is not a sighted witness" in the case.

The application was filed through Wakeel's counsel Momin Malik on 11 March, the day the court was scheduled to pronounce its verdict in the case in which Swami Aseemanand is one of the accused. Special Judge Jagdeep Singh had asked petitioner's counsel as to why the plea was made at the fag end of the trial, saying that several chances were given to all 13 Pakistani witnesses to record their statements before the court.

Wakeel's counsel Malik, however, had reiterated the stand of his client. The court had then listed the application for hearing on 14 March. However, on that date, the matter was posted for 18 March due to a strike by local lawyers.

The woman, in her application, had pleaded that witnesses from Pakistan do not have any knowledge about the ongoing stage of the trial because "no proper summons were served to them". She had said that all eyewitnesses in the case from her country were ready to appear before the court for their depositions and they should be examined in the interest of justice.

The blast in Samjhauta Express occurred near Panipat in Haryana on 18 February, 2007, when the train was on its way to Attari in Amritsar, the last railway station on the Indian side. The blast had ripped apart two coaches of the cross-border train, killing 68, mostly Pakistani nationals.

Haryana police registered a case, but the probe was handed over to the NIA in July 2010. After its probe, the NIA filed a charge sheet in the case in June 2011 against eight persons for their alleged roles in the terror attack. Of the eight persons, Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand, Lokesh Sharma, Kamal Chauhan and Rajinder Chaudhary appeared before the court and faced trial.

Mastermind of the attack Sunil Joshi was shot dead near his home in Madhya Pradesh's Dewas district in December 2007, while three other accused - Ramchandra Kalsangra, Sandeep Dange and Amit - could never be apprehended and were declared proclaimed offenders. Aseemanand is out on bail, while three others are still in judicial custody.

NIA had charged the accused with murder and criminal conspiracy, beside other relevant provisions of the Explosive Substances Act and the Railways Act.

In its probe, the NIA had concluded that the accused were upset with the terror attacks on Hindu temples -- Akshardham (Gujarat), Raghunath Mandir (Jammu) and Sankat Mochan Mandir (Varanasi). They had conspired together to trigger the blast in the Pakistan-bound train, largely carrying nationals of the neighbouring country, to avenge the spate of terror attacks in various temples of the country, it contended.

The accused had conspired and propounded a theory of "bomb ka badla bomb", the NIA had said in its chargesheet. As per the NIA probe, the accused were given training at Madhya Pradesh and Fardiabad in Haryana for making bombs and using pistols.

The NIA charge sheet dubbed Sunil Joshi as the mastermind of the blast plot with active help of the other accused, including Aseemanand. Explosives were stuffed in suitcases, which were planted in the train by Lokesh, Rajinder, Kamal and Amit, as per the NIA chargesheet.

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