The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday submitted its charge sheet to a court in the May 28 Gyaneshwari Express accident, holding the pro-Maoist tribal Peoples' Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) responsible for the crash in which 148 people were killed.
The CBI, which took over the case from the state police's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) following repeated demand of Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee, submitted a 103-page charge sheet in the West Midnapore district court against 23 senior members of PCAPA.
"We have submitted the charge sheet against 23 accused, all of whom are PCAPA members. Of the 23 accused, 17 people including one of the prime accused, Manoj Mahato alias Bapi, are behind bars,” said CBI lawyer Parth Tapaswi.
"The accused are charged under section 150 (maliciously wrecking or attempting to wreck a train) and section 151 (damage to or destruction of certain railway properties) of Indian Railways Act, 16/18 of Unlawful (Prevention) Act, and sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 325 (punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt), 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 440 (mischief committed after preparation made for causing death or hurt), 302 (punishment for murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of the Indian Penal Code,” Tapaswi told IANS over phone.
He said that one of the prime accused, Umakanto Mahato, was killed in a gunfight between the security personnel and the Maoists Aug 27 and thus his name was omitted from the charge sheet.
"Six of the accused are still evading arrest," he added.
However, the names of Asit Mahato, spokesperson and core committee member of the PCAPA, and Maoist commander Sasadhar Mahato were not included in the charge sheet. They were earlier identified as other prime accused and cash rewards were also announced for any information leading to their arrests.
The CBI charge sheet said that the PCAPA, backed by the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), hatched the entire plan to protest against the deployment of joint forces in the area, said a CBI source.
The PCAPA was demanding withdrawal of the joint forces from the area for their alleged atrocities on the common people, but as the government did not pay heed to its demand, the accused persons chalked out the sabotage to take revenge. Bapi was held to be the main culprit in the crime, said the CBI sources.
The Mumbai-bound Gyaneshwari Express ran off the tracks between Sardiha and Khemasuli railway stations near Jhargram as the pandrol clips (which fix the rails to the sleepers) were removed by the saboteurs. The toll went up as a freight train coming from the opposite direction rammed into the derailed coaches.