A key piece of evidence which could have provided some insights into how the prime conspirators in a larger Hindu terror conspiracy were connected to each other lost its value as a proof in the Ajmer blast case due to goof up by investigators. In the trial, only two accused, out of nine, were convicted by a special NIA court in Jaipur. Those acquitted included Swami Aseemanand, an alleged mentor of the Hindu extremists involved in a series of blasts in Malegaon, Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid and the Samjhauta Express train.
Diary of Sunil Joshi
Sunil Joshi was believed to be the kingpin of the Hindu extremists group involved in the string of blasts carried out in retaliation of attacks by Muslim jehadis. But Joshi was murdered in December, 2007 in Madhya Pradesh’s Dewas in mysterious circumstances. After his murder, the Dewas police recovered a diary of the deceased that allegedly contained phone numbers of senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar and Swami Aseemanand.
Why was it key evidence?
The diary of Sunil Joshi, alias Manoj Kumar, was an important piece of evidence to show his close knit circle of friends and well-whishers that allegedly included Indresh Kumar and Swami Aseemanand. In the diary, Joshi had also listed a number under the name of Sardar. The number belonged to Himanshu Phanse, who was a key suspect in a chain of explosions that took place in Maharashtra mosques between 2002 and 2005. Phanse was found dead along with another person in an accidental blast at Nanded in Maharashtra.
Copy of the diary that wasn’t
The court documents in the Ajmer blast case in which charges could be proved against only two out of nine accused showed the Dewas police provided a copy of the diary to the investigating officer (IO) in the Mecca Masjid blast case, which is also considered as part of the larger Hindu terror probe. The IO self-attested the copy of the diary and submitted it as evidence in the first chargesheet. The first IO in the Ajmer blast case took a copy of the diary from the Mecca Masjid case’s IO and produced it as an evidence in his case too.
Diary gets discarded as evidence
Special judge Dinesh Gupta said in his judgement in the Ajmer case that if the dairy was originally seized by the Dewas police, the prosecution should have produced a copy of the seizure memo made by the Dewas police. The judge added that a letter from the Dewas police saying that a copy of the diary was handed over to the IO of the Mecca Masjid case should also have been produced before him to prove its authenticity. The prosecution could have produced an officer from the Dewas police as witness in the case who could have certified that indeed a copy of the dairy was handed over to the IO of the Mecca Masjid case. But that was also not done.
No sign mean lack of sign as evidence
The judge said even the application on the basis of which a photocopy of the diary was issued, didn’t mention the applicant’s name, therefore, it could not authenticate how the copy of the dairy became part of the Ajmer case chargesheet.
No diary, no phone number, no call details
The prosecution had also alleged that Sunil Joshi was using a BSNL mobile number (9424060007). The Mecca Masjid case IO was a witness in the Ajmer case. He had shared many pieces of evidence with his Ajmer case counterpart because both the blasts were allegedly carried out by almost same set of accused persons. Therefore, the call details of Joshi’s phone were originally procured by the Mecca Masjid case’s IO but were also produced as evidence in the Ajmer case. But the judge said the call details should have been produced with a certification under section 65 (B) of Indian Evidence Act, an important procedural requirement, which the prosecution failed to do.
IO got retired
The call details of Joshi were procured from the BSNL after an email request from the Mecca Masjid IO, but he got retired. The new IO took a printout of the mail from his predecessor’s computer and annexed it with the Mecca Masjid case’s chargesheet.
But the judge said the IO, who took printouts, in his deposition accepted that the pages of the details were not numbered and one could not gather from the pages the date of sending of email or even the fact that it was received from the BSNL. Even the date of taking the printout was also not mentioned.
Another certified copy from BSNL, No?
Since it was a 2007 case that was cracked around three years later, seeking another copy of the call details from the BSNL was not an easy option. The Ajmer case IO clarified to the judge that if call details of a particular number are required after a passage of three years, they can be procured only from the archives of the service provider. The IO told the judge that he tried to procure a copy of the call details from the BSNL archives, but he didn’t receive it till the time he was handling the case. Later, the case was handed over to the NIA. Even the two NIA IOs - Arvind Negi and Vishal Garg-- didn’t produce any certified copy of the call detail of Joshi’s alleged phone number.
Other option too proved futile Another way to prove that the number was being used by Sunil Joshi was to get its subscriber details. But the subscriber details showed that SIM card of the number allegedly used by Joshi was issued in the name of one Yuvraj Singh.
Yuvraj Singh had given the SIM card of the number to one Anandraj Kataria, who was a key witness in the case and his statement was recorded before a magistrate along with 11 other witnesses.
But the prosecution didn’t produce Yuvraj Singh as a witness to prove it. And inexplicably when Kataria’s statement were recorded, there was no mention of a SIM card that he got from a person named Yuvraj Singh, which he later gave to Sunil Joshi.
Even the last chance too was lost
Even the Dewas police had mentioned in one of its documents that this phone number was being used by Joshi. But again, no officer from the Dewas police was produced as witness to prove that how and when they got to know that this number was being used by Joshi.
No connection at all
The prosecution said accused Devendra Gupta, who now stands convicted in the case, and his mentor Sunil Joshi spoke to each other and also exchanged messages on mobile on October 11, 2007, the day blast took place in the Dargah Sharif.
But the prosecution didn’t even produce subscriber details or call details of mobile number being used by Devendra Gupta to show that the number on which Joshi spoke belonged to Gupta.
Therefore the trail of call details that could have connected Joshi and Gupta and some of the other suspects in the case dried up. But fortunately some of the witnesses told the court that Joshi and Gupta knew each other well. That’s how at least their closeness was proved.