OVER FIVE months after it came to light that documents in the 2008 Malegaon blast case had gone missing, the accused have now opposed the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA’s) application to reconstruct the documents as secondary evidence.
In April, the court had been informed that original documents — including 13 witness statements recorded before the magistrate under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code and two statements of the accused recorded under MCOCA — were untraceable.
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While the documents continue to remain missing despite a search in all the courts they were taken to including the Supreme Court, Bombay High Court and a court in Nashik, the NIA recently approached the special court hearing the case, seeking to use copies of documents available with them and those given to the accused, to be used as secondary evidence at the time of the trial.
The accused have raised objection to the NIA not having authenticated copies of the original documents, sources said. The NIA has produced documents, which are truncated copies of the original statements, as were given to the accused.
“The accused have contended that since the documents are yet to be declared as lost as per the provisions of the Section 65 of the Indian Evidence Act, an application to seek secondary evidence for them cannot be sustained. The NIA has filed an application to avoid further delay in the trial. It is up to the court to decide whether it can be declared as secondary evidence now. A decision has to be taken when the concerned witnesses are examined at the time of the trial,” said special public prosecutor Avinash Rasal.
The documents include those witnesses whose statements were re-recorded by the NIA after they claimed that they had been coerced into giving ‘false’ statements by the Maharashtra ATS. They would, therefore, form an important part of the trial during evidence.
A source said that to formally conclude that the papers have been lost, concerned authorities including ATS officers, then court staff members and former special public prosecutor, Rohini Salian, could be called before court.
On September 29, 2008, a bomb explosion in Malegaon killed six and injured 101 people. Soon after, the Maharashtra ATS had arrested 14 persons including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit.
The NIA took over the investigation in 2011 and filed a supplementary chargesheet against 10 persons in May this year. While the NIA has submitted draft charges in the case, the trial is yet to begin with most accused in custody since 2008.