The National Investigation Agency (NIA) court here on Monday issued a notice to Kamal Chauhan, an accused in the Samjhauta blasts case, for filing a reply to the NIA application regarding extending the time for filing the chargesheet against him from 90 to 180 days.
On May 9, the court had extended the period, even though neither the accused was present in the court nor the application notice was issued to him. The 90-day period would have ended on May 12. Chauhan then appealed in the Punjab and Haryana high court against the order, alleging violation of the principle of natural justice.
Chauhan, who was arrested on February 12, has now got an opportunity on Tuesday to oppose the NIA application, which claimed that he was one of the persons who planted a total of four bombs on the Lahore-bound Samjhauta train. A total of 68 people were killed in two explosions near Panipat on February 18, 2007.
In its July 3 ruling, the HC bench comprising justice SK Mittal and justice Inderjit Singh said, "Before extending the time to complete the investigation, no opportunity was granted to the accused to oppose the said prayer. Thus, the principle of natural justice was violated. The impugned order has caused serious prejudice to the accused, because his indefeasible right to seek an order of his release on bail was being defeated by extending the time."
The bench added that other requirements for moving the application through the public prosecutor were also not complied with. The high court had ordered the NIA to again move the NIA court at Panchkula for getting the time extended for the investigation within 10 days.
In investigations related to offences punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term of not less than 10 years, 90 days is the time for filing the chargesheet. However, under the NIA Act, the chargesheet can be filed within 180 days, for which permission is needed from the court.
The NIA on Monday took the ground that investigations were "at a crucial stage and spread over different states" and travel details of the accused from Madhya Pradesh to New Delhi, records pertaining to stay in New Delhi and bank records needed to be verified for seeking extension in the time period for filing the chargesheet.