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Court slams NIA for ‘gaping holes’ in Samjhauta probe

Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand, Lokesh Sharma, Kamal Chauhan and Rajinder Chaudhary were acquitted by the NIA court here on March 20.

india Updated: Mar 28, 2019 23:11 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Samjhauta case,Swami Aseemanand,Samjhauta Express train blast
A view of a burnt carriage of Samjhauta Express train in Deewana, near Panipat town, February 19, 2007. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan/File Photo(REUTERS File)

The special court, which last week acquitted four people of the 2007 attack on the Peace Train between India and Pakistan, said it was deeply pained and anguished that a dastardly act of violence remained unpunished for want of credible and admissible evidence.

Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand, Lokesh Sharma, Kamal Chauhan and Rajinder Chaudhary were acquitted last week on charges of bombing the train; 68 people, 42 of them Pakistanis, were killed when two coaches of the Samjhauta Express caught fire on February 19, 2007 after two improvised explosive devices exploded on board the train near Haryana’s Panipat.

“There are gaping holes in the prosecution evidence and an act of terrorism has remained unsolved,’’ special judge Jagdeep Singh said in his detailed order which was made public on Thursday. The court said the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which took over the probe into the attack in 2010, failed to prove the charges framed against the four. The court referred to the terms Muslim terrorism and Hindu fundamentalism and called both coinages a malaise. It slammed investigating agencies for branding acts of criminals as those of a particular religion, caste or community. “A criminal element, belonging to a particular religion, community or caste, cannot be projected as representative of such particular religion, community or caste…” it said.

The court said branding an entire community, caste or religion in the name of such criminal elements “would be totally unjustified”. It added it would be in the best interests of humankind to avoid such descriptions “lest we should be heading towards intense civil war or caught in a whirlpool of fratricide’’.The judge underlined terrorism has no religion because no religion preaches violence.

This was the third terror-related case in which Aseemanand, a former functionary of a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliate, was acquitted. He was earlier cleared in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case in Hyderabad and Ajmer blast case the same year. The cases gave rise to the phrase “saffron terror”, which Hindutva organisations reject as false propaganda.

The NIA filed a charge sheet in the Samjhauta case in July 2011 saying the accused were angry with the “Islamic terrorist attacks” on Hindu temples and sought to link the Samjhauta, Mecca Masjid and Ajmer blast cases.

The judge said a court is not supposed to proceed on popular or predominant public perception or the political discourse of the day.

It has to appreciate the evidence on record and arrive at a final conclusion on the basis of statutory provisions and settled law applicable thereto.

The court appreciated security personnel, who saved passengers on board the train by risking their lives. It recognised assistant sub-inspector Kashmir Singh ‘s role exemplary for saving people trapped in the burning coaches.

The court referred to witnesses who turned hostile in the case too.

“The Supreme Court has expressed concerns about safety and protection of witnesses and therefore it is high time we put in place some sound and workable witness protection scheme at the earliest so that every criminal trial can be taken to its logical conclusion,” the court said; 51 out of 224 witnesses turned hostile in the Samjhauta case, according to the NIA

First Published: Mar 28, 2019 18:42 IST