January 3, 2017 3:05:29 am
A SPECIAL court has allowed the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to use available copies as secondary evidence in place of papers that have gone missing in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case. In April last year, the special NIA court had been informed that some original documents that were part of the evidence were untraceable.
These included 13 witness statements recorded by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code and two statements of the accused recorded under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act.
In September, the NIA, which took over the probe in 2011, had approached the court seeking permission to use photocopies of the original documents. The accused, including Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit, had opposed the plea, stating they had been provided truncated copies, and their authenticity was not verified.
Special public prosecutor Avinash Rasal said the court observed that among the documents were various statements available with the investigators, including the ATS and the NIA. “The court has observed that the statements recorded under section 164 and 161 of the CrPC were sent to this court and there were records to show that in the roznama (daily register). The copies of the documents were also given to the accused from time to time through their lawyers,” said Rasal.
He added that the court observed that no harm would be caused to the accused in allowing the statements to form part of evidence during the trial and it would save the court further delay in the case.
The case is at the stage of framing of charges against the 11 accused, including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Major Ramesh Upadhyay, Sameer Kulkarni and others. In the past months, investigators, including ATS officers who had dealt with the case earlier, were called before the court to decide on the application of allowing secondary evidence. An ATS officer had told the court that the body had certified copies of only four of the 15 statements that went missing. Since the NIA had re-recorded certain witness statements and some were different from what the ATS recorded, the evidentiary value of the missing papers is significant. In rejecting the bail plea filed by Pragya Singh, the court had observed that it would rely on statements recorded by both the ATS and the NIA.
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