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Accused challenges Centre’s prosecution sanction

india Updated: Dec 19, 2011 23:05 IST
Bhartesh Singh Thakur

Samjhauta blast accused Lokesh Sharma on Monday challenged the central government’s sanction to prosecute him, but the National Investigation Agency (NIA) described it as a tactic to delay framing of charges in the case.

The blast on the India-Pakistan Samjhauta Express train on February 18, 2007 at Diwana village near Panipat town in Haryana killed 68 people. Sharma and blast accused Aseemanand are currently lodged in Ambala’s central jail.

During resumed hearing in the case in Panchkula, Sharma’s counsel Ajay Kaushik submitted in the NIA special court that in an order dated July 26, 2010, the central government asked the NIA to take up the investigations in the matter from the Haryana government.

“In the order dated 26.7.2010, it has not been specified as to when the central government received the report from the state government regarding information of the blast,” reads the application. “In order to ensure strict compliance of the provisions of Section 6 (3) of the Act (NIA Act, 2008), it was imperative on the part of the prosecution to state that the report submitted by the government of Haryana was acted upon within 15 days from the date of receipt of such report by it.”

The Centre in its order dated June 17, 2010, granted sanction of prosecution under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 in the case.

But Kaushik contended in court that in the order, the date when the investigating officer moved the central government with the evidence gathered during investigation was not mentioned, and it was also not clear when the government made an independent review of the investigations and allowed sanction for prosecution (which is to be made in seven days after independent review) under Section 45 (2) of the Unlawful Activities Act, 1967.

Kaushik asked for producing the record in the court to prove that no delay at any stage occurred in the case.

On the other hand, the NIA, through additional superintendent of police (ASP) Vishal Garg, submitted that Lokesh Sharma filed this application with an intention to drag proceedings and to evade framing of charges against him in the case.

“Since there is ample evidence against the accused, raising objections at this stage with frivolous allegations is only to hamper the smooth functioning of the judicial process,” Garg said. The application is pending and will be taken up along with framing of charges.

During the proceedings on Monday, Sharma also moved an application for discharge from the case. Some of the statements of witnesses have been recorded by assistant sub-inspectors, head constable and inspectors, the defence has said.

“They (defence counsel) claim that as per law, the statements should have been recorded by a rank of DSP,” said RK Handa, counsel for NIA.

“Our contention is that an additional superintendent of police is over all in charge of investigations and he can ask his subordinates to record the statements.”

The next hearing in the case is January 10.