Samjhauta Express blast verdict held up over Pakistani national’s last-minute plea
A last-minute intervention by a Pakistani national through her lawyer resulted in the deferring of the verdict in the Samjhauta Express blasts case that was to be delivered Monday afternoon.
The special judge Jagdeep Singh fixed March 14 as next hearing for “filing of written reply” by the National Investigating Agency (NIA), which investigated the case, and the accused including Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Aseemanand.
In her intervention, Rahila Wakil, who hails from Dhingrawali village of Hafizabad district of Pakistan, said that her father Muhammad Wakeel was one of the victims of the train blasts and added that all Pakistan nationals who were witnesses in this 2007 case are “ready to appear” as witnesses.
The surprise application was mentioned as soon as the court assembled on Monday afternoon to deliver the verdict amid tight security. Media was not allowed inside the courtroom.
Wakil’s counsel, Momin Malik, submitted an e-mail that he received from her on Monday at 2.28pm asking him to move the application to hear out the 13 Pakistani nationals who were witnesses in this case.
“…in this case most of the eye witnesses are Pak[istani] nationals and they want to appear before this court…but they have not received summons…visa was not granted to the eye witnesses…all the witnesses are ready to appear before this court…without their evidence this case cannot be decided on the merits…” her application read.
The Samjhauta Express runs twice a week between Delhi and Attari in India and Lahore in Pakistan. It is run jointly by Indian and Pakistani Railways.
Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) set off a fire in the Samjhauta Express on the night of February 18, 2007, killing 68 people on board, including Pakistan nationals. The explosion took place near Panipat in Haryana.
An investigation by NIA established that two general bogies of the train caught fire after two bomb explosions. Two unexploded suitcase bombs were also found in other compartments of the train. In its charge sheet, NIA named eight persons as accused in the terror blast case, including former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist Aseemanand who is out on bail. Three of the accused are absconding and three others are in judicial custody. Sunil Joshi, the alleged mastermind of the bombing, was killed in December 2007.
Manvir Rathi, counsel of the accused Assemanand, said: “The court has issued notices on the last minute application of Pakistani national. We accepted the notice and will file a reply…”
“ NIA will file a reply on March 14 regarding the application of Pakistan national,” RK Handa, the prosecution lawyer said.
According to NIA investigators, the agency recorded the statements of 224 witnesses; 51 witnesses turned hostile; and nine witnesses died; and 13 Pakistan nationals did not record their statements. NIA officials said during the trial that they sent several summons to the Pakistani witnesses through the external affairs ministry that weren’t responded to.