Indian NIA Court rejects Pakistani women witness plea in Samjhota Express Blast case

Indian NIA Court rejects Pakistani women witness plea in Samjhota Express Blast case
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NEW DELHI - An anti-terror court, trying the 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing case here, Wednesday dismissed a Pakistani woman's plea to examine blast eyewitnesses from her country, terming the prayer as "devoid of any merit." "The court dismissed the Pakistani woman's application. It ruled the plea was devoid of any merit, said counsel Rajan Malhotra for National Investigation Agency.

Special NIA Judge Jagdeep Singh had Monday reserved his order on the woman's application for March 20 after hearing arguments by counsel for the women and the NIA .

Pakistani woman Rahila Wakeel, the daughter of a blast victim, Muhammad Wakeel of Dhingrawali village in Hafizabad district of Pakistan had moved the court on March 11 seeking examination of the blast eyewitnesses from her country.

She had contended that her co-nationals either did not receive proper summonses from the court or were denied visas by authorities to appear before it.

The NIA , which is probing the case, argued that summonses were sent through proper channels on three occasions, but they were not responded to.

The NIA also said Rahila Wakeel "is not a sighted witness" in the case. The application on behalf of Wakeel had been filed by her counsel Momin Malik on March 11, the day the court was scheduled to pronounce its verdict in the case in which Swami Aseemanand is also one of the accused.

Special Judge Singh had asked petitioner's counsel why the plea had been made at the fag end of the trial, saying several chances were given to all 13 Pakistani witnesses to record their statements before the court.Wakeel's counsel Malik, however, had reiterated his client's stand.

The court had then listed the application for hearing on March 14.

The matter, however, had to be deferred to March 18 that due to a strike by local lawyers.

The woman, in her application, had pleaded that witnesses from Pakistan do not have any knowledge about the ongoing stage of the trial as "no proper summons were served to them".

She had said all eyewitnesses in the case from her country were ready to appear before the court for their depositions and they should be examined in the interest of justice.

The blast in Samjhauta Express occurred near Panipat in Haryana on February 18, 2007, when the train was on its way to Attari in Amritsar, the last railway station on the Indian side.

The blast had ripped apart two coaches of the cross-border train, killing 68, mostly Pakistani nationals.

Haryana police registered a case, but the probe was handed over to the NIA in July 2010.

After its probe, the NIA filed a charge sheet in the case in June 2011 against eight persons for their alleged roles in the terror attack.

Of the eight persons, Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand, Lokesh Sharma, Kamal Chauhan and Rajinder Chaudhary appeared before the court and faced trial.

The alleged mastermind of the attack, Sunil Joshi, was shot dead near his home in Madhya Pradesh's Dewas district in December 2007, while three other accused -- Ramchandra Kalsangra, Sandeep Dange and Amit could never be apprehended and were declared proclaimed offenders.

Aseemanand is out on bail, while three others are still in judicial custody.

NIA had charged the accused with murder and criminal conspiracy, besides other relevant provisions of the Explosive Substances Act and the Railways Act.

In its probe, the NIA had concluded that the accused were upset with the terror attacks on Hindu temples -- Akshardham (Gujarat), Raghunath Mandir (Jammu) and Sankat Mochan Mandir (Varanasi).

They had conspired together to trigger the blast in the Pakistan-bound train, largely carrying nationals of the neighbouring country, to avenge the spate of terror attacks in various temples of the country, it contended.

The accused had conspired and propounded a theory of "bomb ka badla bomb", the NIA had said in its charge sheet.

As per the NIA probe, the accused were given training at Madhya Pradesh and Faridabad in Haryana for making bombs and using pistols.

The NIA charge sheet dubbed Sunil Joshi as the mastermind of the blasted plot with the active help of the other accused, including Aseemanand.

New Delhi