In a setback to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), a Panchkula court on Wednesday rejected its application seeking 15-day remand for Samjhauta train bombing suspect Lokesh Sharma.
The February 2007 train blasts close to Diwana railway station near Haryana's Panipat town killed 68 people, most of them Pakistanis.
The court of additional district and sessions judge Kanchan Mahi was hearing the case on Wednesday as NIA judge Subhas Mehla was on leave.
The NIA submitted in the court, through special public prosecutors RK Handa and Rajan Malhotra, that due to the arrest of RSS member Kamal Chauhan, the case had taken a new turn.
The NIA said Chauhan had named Lokesh Sharma — so the latter's intensive interrogation was required to know about the preparation and procurement of explosives, their planting and how the people were trained in handling explosives and arms.
Sharma, who has been made an accused in the chargesheet, was also required for identification of various places where meetings of the blasts executers had taken place, the agency said.
According to the chargesheet, he was one of the conspirators as he participated in the main conspiracy meeting at Valsad, Gujarat, in June 2006. But the arrest of Chauhan and revelation that Sharma was allegedly one of the four bomb planters has turned the focus towards identifying the other two planters.
Sharma's counsel Ajay Kaushik said he was "interrogated briefly outside the court" when he was brought to Panchkula on June 18, 2011. "After that he was sent in judicial custody," Kaushik said. "There is no association between Sharma and Chauhan as is being alleged by the NIA."
Statement not recorded
The NIA is yet to record the statement of Kamal Chauhan, whose remand ends on February 24. The investigating agency is likely to seek to interrogate him further. His house had been searched and some material reportedly seized by NIA.
On February 14, while coming out of the court Chauhan told mediapersons that he had carried out the blasts out of his own accord.
The NIA says he underwent extensive training in handling of weapons and explosives. He reportedly took training at Karni Singh shooting range in Faridabad (Haryana) and Bagli in Dewas (Madhya Pradesh). He was arrested as a witness Shivam Dhakkar had named him.
Chauhan's counsel Shailendar Babbar, however, said they had moved the National Human Rights Commission against his arrest. "He had been interrogated earlier by the CBI too," Babbar said. "He (Chauhan) was under their watch for about a year."
The case was listed for framing of charges on Wednesday but the hearing was adjourned.
While coming out of court, Aseemanand, key accused in the case, while replying to a question, said that he did not know Chauhan, and alleged this was a "conspiracy" of the NIA.
Aseemanad had given a confessional statement in the case but later backtracked.
Who is Lokesh Sharma?
Sharma, a close associate of Sunil Joshi (the suspected 'mastermind' behind the blasts who was later murdered), allegedly planted a bomb on Samjhauta Express.
The Indore resident's name has cropped up in the Ajmer blasts and Mecca Masjid blasts of Hyderabad as well Sharma was arrested on June 17, 2010 for the Ajmer blasts and on June 18, 2001 for Samjhauta blasts.