The trial of alleged Hindu extremists in the 2007 Ajmer blast case has received a setback as 13 of 93 witnesses have refused to support the prosecution in their depositions so far. Seven of those 13 are ‘material witnesses’ whose testimonies are crucial to prove the case.
One of them, Randhir Singh, is now a minister in the Raghubar Das-led government in Jharkhand while the others are associated with the BJP or the RSS in various capacities, assistant public prosecutor Ashwini Sharma said.
This is not the first such instance as cases of alleged saffron terror have gone down the same route earlier, including those pertaining to blasts in Malegaon (September 2006 and September 2008), the Samjhauta Express (February 2007) and the Mecca Masjid (May 2007).
Read: Hindu terror probe: NIA yet to lay hands on masterminds
“We have no hold over the witness once the charge sheet is filed,” said National Investigation Agency (NIA) chief Sharad Kumar.
“But to be on the safe side, in cases of material witnesses, we get their statements recorded before a magistrate. In such cases, the magistrate who records the statement is also a witness. If a witness says he was under pressure from investigators, the magistrate can deny the charge in his deposition.”
Kumar said there was no need to see any politics behind the development as all cases of Hindu terror were investigated and chargesheeted before the NDA government took charge.
In September last year, the NDA government refused to allow the NIA to challenge an order of the high court of Andhra Pradesh granting bail to two accused, Devendra Gupta and Lokesh Sharma, in the Mecca Masjid case.
Read: Witness turns hostile in Samjhauta blasts case
Prime accused Swami Aseemanad got bail from the Punjab and Haryana high court in the Samjhauta Express blasts case but the NIA is yet to challenge the order in the Supreme Court.
Three other prime accused in Hindu terror plots, Sandeep Dange, Ramchandra Kalsangra and Ashwini Chauhan, are yet to be nabbed. In the latest setback, Jharkhand minister Randhir Singh in his deposition on May 6 denied his earlier statement where he had said he saw two accused, Devendra Gupta and Sunil Joshi, test fire a weapon.
Singh became a minister in the Raghubar Das government in February this year after he defected from Babulal Marandi’s Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik).
Singh’s phone remained switched off through the day on Saturday and his personal assistant, Gopal (who goes by one name) said the minister was ill and resting. Assistant public prosecutor Sharma said witnesses recanting their statements had weakened the case.
“Their testimonies were crucial to the case. If three or four more witnesses turn hostile then it will be very difficult to prove the case,” Sharma told HT.
(With inputs from Ranchi)
Read:NIA asked me to go soft on Malegaon accused: Prosecutor