Two more witnesses turned hostile in the 2007 Samjhauta Express bomb blasts case on Friday, taking the total number of witnesses to have retracted their statements to 19 so far. The latest to turn hostile before the Panchkula Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court were Nagin Bhai Patel and Mahinder Magan Bhai Vanekar.
NIA counsel Rajan Malhotra said the duo were the alleged independent witnesses when the key accused in the case, Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand, had recorded his disclosure statement before the NIA on January 6, 2011.
While Patel is a patwari, Vanekar is a field surveyor in Daman. As per the NIA report, Aseemanand had made the disclosure statement, in the presence of Patel and Vanekar, that he along with Sunil Joshi had hatched a plan to attack Hindu temples in 2006. Aseemanand had allegedly confessed to having handed over Rs 25,000 to Joshi for the procurement of raw material for bombs. Both the witnesses had put their signatures on the disclosure statement.
During the resumed hearing on Friday, however, Patel and Vanekar admitted that the document contained their signatures but denied that Aseemanand had made any such disclosure statement in their presence.
At the same time, a fourth witness, Vijay Kumar Upadhyay, supported the NIA’s version before the court on Friday. As under secretary in the Home Department, Upadhyay had granted sanction to prosecute accused Rajinder Chaudhary.
The blasts occurred on the Samjhauta Express when it was near Dewana railway station in Panipat district of Haryana, killing 68 people, mostly from Pakistan, and injuring 12 on the intervening night of February 18 and 19, 2007. The train was on its way to Lahore in Pakistan.
The next hearing in the case is on April 1.