Another key witness in the 2007 Ajmer Dargah bomb blast case turned hostile on Monday. With this, 15 of the total 83 witnesses examined in the case so far have turned hostile since June last year.
“Yet another one has turned hostile today. The case is getting weakened by the day,” said public prosecutor Ashwini Sharma, who told The Indian Express on Saturday that an increasing number of witnesses were turning hostile.
Anand Raj Kataria, a jeweller from Indore with apparent RSS leanings, who had earlier told the ATS that he was “officially introduced to Sadhvi Pragya Singh” and knew Aseemanand and Devendra Gupta (both accused in the case), went back on his statement today. Kataria told the NIA court that he did not know any of the accused and only knew about Pragya Singh since she performed yagyas at Kotichandi.
Kataria denied that he had ever travelled with her or knew her in any other capacity. He, however, admitted that he knew Lokesh, who is an accused in the murder of Sunil Joshi. Kataria was also named in the Joshi murder case.
Only three of the five witnesses summoned for cross-examination appeared on Monday. One of them was Alok Jain, who runs a mobile shop in Jamtara, Jharkhand. He testified that some of the SIM cards retrieved by the investigating agencies were issued from his shop.
The third witness, suspended inspector Subhash Godara, reiterated his findings at the crime spot. During the Ajmer blast, Godara was posted in the Special Operation Group and had gone to the blast site to collect evidence and investigate the matter.
He was later suspended in the Dara Singh encounter case.
Five more witnesses have been summoned on Tuesday. While four are police officials who were posted in the ATS, the fifth is a colonel who had prepared a report on the bomb.
Besides Kataria, the witnesses who have turned hostile so far are: Randhir Singh, Rohit Kumar Jha, Bhanu Singh, Sonu Pandey, Vishnu Patidar, Swapnil Joshi, Ishan Chawla, Vinod Kumar Shav, Parimal Pal, Gautam Pal, Vimal Pal, Sugandhi Devi, Goverdhan Singh and Hari Narayan. All of them are either active RSS pracharaks or linked to the Sangh in some capacity.
“These 14 witnesses who have turned hostile since the hearings in June 2014 were all key witnesses who had recorded their statements before the magistrate under Section 164 (of the Code of Criminal Procedure). It was all the more important because in this case, there are only 15 witnesses who recorded their statements under Section 164, of whom three were later named accused. A large number of the remaining witnesses are the injured or police officials who are not key witnesses,” Sharma told The Indian Express on Saturday.
Four years after the November 10, 2007 blast in Ajmer that killed three and injured 17, the case was handed over to the NIA in 2011. But the hearings kept being postponed as the witnesses made over a dozen applications delaying their appearance before the court, citing threat to their lives among other reasons.
Soon after the change of government at the Centre last year, it was decided that the hearings in the case would be fast-tracked and at least five hearings would be held every month. Since June last year, 83 of the over 200 witnesses have already been cross-examined.