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Home / Analysis / Samjhauta case: Political opportunism has defeated the war on terror

Samjhauta case: Political opportunism has defeated the war on terror

The acquittal of the accused in the Samjhauta train blast case is because of a legally untenable chargesheet

analysis Updated: May 01, 2019, 18:46 IST
Rajeev Panday
Rajeev Panday
A special NIA court in March acquitted Swami Aseemanand in the 2007 Samjhauta train blast case
A special NIA court in March acquitted Swami Aseemanand in the 2007 Samjhauta train blast case (Sant Arora/HT)

The moment the court announced its judgment in the Samjhauta blast case, every party connected to the case started interpreting the judgment according to its own convenience. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) slammed the Congress by pointing out that the conspiracy to use the Samjhauta blast incident to defame Hindus as terrorists now stood exposed.

The Samjhauta blast took place on February 18, 2007, and the state of Haryana, through its Special Investigation Team (SIT), was investigating the matter till 2011 when a suo-motu decision was taken by the government to transfer several blast cases to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). By that time, the Haryana SIT had recorded the statement of Usman, a Pakistani national. His statement suggested the involvement of Pakistan in the blast. From February 2007 till February 2011, the SIT investigated the matter but made no progress.

The NIA took just four months to complete a task that SIT Haryana could not perform in four years. Interestingly, the NIA continued sending requisitions to international bodies with a view to investigating the role of Arif Qasmani in the Samjhauta blast. The first request on Qasmani was sent by the NIA in 2011 which was pursued from time to time even during pendency of the trial. Thus, the NIA was prosecuting the chargesheet and simultaneously investigating the Pakistan angle. The US has declared Arif Qasmani a global terrorist.

A bare reading of the judgment shows that the court at Panchkula discarded all evidence produced by the NIA. The whole case against the accused was based on the confessional statement of one of the accused, namely Aseemanand, u/s 164 of Code of Criminal Procedure Act. The trial court discussed at length various glaring irregularities in the whole process of obtaining the confession. On this issue, three dates were very important. On January 13, 2011, Aseemanand submitted to the court that he had no intention of giving any confession and he was remanded to judicial custody by the court. On January 15, 2011, he was again produced by the NIA before magistrate and his confession was recorded. No permission was taken from the remand court and thus the NIA violated the law. It is curious as to how Aseemanand changed his mind within 48 hours. On January 15, 2011, after recording his so-called confessional statement, Aseemanand was again sent to police custody.

This sequence of events shows that the allegation of torture cannot be ruled out. On May 12, 2011, at the first available opportunity of being produced before a special court, Aseemanand retracted his confession. It is in these circumstances that the NIA special court at Panchkula has now discarded the confessional statement and the whole case has collapsed. If at all the NIA possessed any circumstantial evidence supporting the confessional statement, the outcome would have been different.

The most shocking observation of the court is with regard to the NIA’s failure in investigating and producing vital evidence such as: 1) CCTV footage at Delhi railway station that might have shown who were the real culprits behind the blasts. 2) Fingerprint expert reports to show who was behind the blast and whether the accused really had any connection with the blast. 3) Test identification by the tailor in Indore who had stitched cloth covers for the bags containing explosives recovered at the blast site to establish whether the accused had any role in getting these. 4) Tracking the trail of some unknown passengers from the train who got down probably after planting the bomb.

Thus, the acquittal of the accused is not due to the weak presentation of the case during trial but due to a legally untenable chargesheet founded on a concocted story.

What pains me is the fact that the politically motivated projection of the case emboldened the defenders of terror emanating from Pakistan. Whenever Indian civilians or soldiers fell to terror attacks at the hands of jihadis and India tried to raise the issue at international forums, the pro-jihad lobbies promptly retaliated by pointing out India’s official acknowledgement of the existence of saffron terror and the vigour with which India’s premier investigating agency admitted the role of Hindus in a terror attack.

Today, the accused stand acquitted. However, the damage caused to the war on terror is irreparable. Political opportunism has defeated not only the national interest but has also harmed the global campaign against terror.

Rajeev Panday is an advocate, Supreme Court of India

The views expressed are personal

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