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Friday, September 17, 2021

3-4 witnesses threatened, not willing to record their statement out of fear: NIA

Says car planted with gelatin sticks created fear in people’s mind

Written by Sadaf Modak | Mumbai |
Updated: August 4, 2021 9:34:29 am
The NIA, which has arrested 10 persons in the case, also said so far 164 witness statements have been recorded. (File)

AFTER A vehicle laden with explosives was parked near industrialist Mukesh Ambani residence in South Mumbai on February 25, allegedly by dismissed cop Sachin Waze and others, a prominent family “was so terrorised” that they cancelled a scheduled trip abroad, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) told the special court on Tuesday.

Without naming the family linked to the case, the NIA, which is seeking another month to file a chargesheet against Waze and four other accused, said the car planted with loose gelatin sticks and a threat letter had created fear in the minds of the people.

Special public prosecutor Sunil Gonsalves submitted before the court that this showed why terror charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) were invoked against the accused.

“One of the families was so terrorised that they had to cancel a trip scheduled for a particular day. Gelatin sticks were placed in a car… there is a fear in the minds of the people,” Gonsalves said. The UAPA sections 16 (punishment for a terrorist act) and 18 (punishment for conspiracy) have been invoked against the accused in the case.

The NIA also claimed that 3-4 witnesses were being threatened and were not willing to come forward to record their statement out of fear. “They were provided protection by the NIA,” Gonsalves told the court.

The NIA, which has arrested 10 persons in the case, also said so far 164 witness statements have been recorded. This includes the statement of one of the two men who were allegedly planned to be eliminated by the accused policemen in a bid to show that the explosives were planted as part of a terrorist plot.
The prosecutor also told the court that some of the accused had given extra-judicial statements to their friends and their statements were also recorded.

The NIA, which made its first arrest in the case on March 13, has a maximum of 180 days to file a chargesheet as per the UAPA. The agency, however, has to first take an extension from the court beyond the first 90 days. While the court had in June allowed the NIA an extension of 60 days, the agency has now again approached the court for an additional 30 days.

The NIA prosecutor told the court that the investigation was an “enormous task” in the case as the accused, most of them trained policemen, had “dodged” the probe time and again.

“When their custody was taken, they never told us the whole truth. They provided the wrong information. People can lie but documents do not. So, we are verifying each and every document. The accused were using handsets of someone else and SIM cards of somebody else. The disclosure statements of four of the accused reveal that the devices and SIM cards used in the conspiracy were destroyed including by Waze and Mane,” the NIA claimed.

It said that Thane-resident Mansukh Hiran, linked to the SUV, was murdered as he was a key link to the case. “He was aware of the entire conspiracy. The case would have taken a different turn had he been alive,” the prosecutor told the court.

Apart from CCTV camera footages running into terabytes and lakhs of pages of Call Data Records (CDR), the NIA said it required to summon nearly 50 traders from Nagpur to narrow down on who had given the loose gelatin sticks, manufactured by a solar firm, to Waze. The agency also claimed that it is yet to receive reports from the forensic laboratory on the revolver seized from accused retired policeman Pradeep Sharma’s residence in June and the DNA profile of the vehicles seized in the offence.

It said that incriminating documents of Sharma’s PS Foundation, too, were being examined. The agency claimed that the accused involved in killing Hiran had travelled to Nepal, Dubai, Lucknow, Ahmedabad and Delhi after the murder on March 4 and one of the accused had been paid Rs 45 lakh for the crime.

It also said that a team sent to Delhi was recording statements in connection with messages shared over the Telegram app, which had said that purported terror outfit Jaish-ul-Hind had claimed responsibility for the incident.

The NIA said it was trying to determine the place from where the messages were sent and the connection of the cellphones and SIM cards to the larger conspiracy.

Lawyer Aabad Ponda, representing Waze, opposed the extension sought by the NIA to file the chargesheet. He sought for a prosecution report to be submitted to the defence.

Special Judge Dinesh E Kothalikar will hear the arguments on the plea on Wednesday. The accused, including dismissed policemen Waze, Riyaz Kazi, Sunil Mane and Vinayak Shinde, were physically produced for the hearing on Tuesday.

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