At least eight Pakistani witnesses are yet to be summoned to depose in the Samjhauta Express blast trial, special public prosecutor R K Handa told The Indian Express.
“Witnesses who identified the dead bodies have been examined, as have witnesses in connection with the movement of the railway train, the burning of the coaches and the initial investigation conducted by railway police. Around eight to ten Pakistani witnesses are yet to depose in the trial. They are either injured passengers or relatives of those who were killed. They are yet to be summoned,” Handa said.
The case is being heard at a Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) Court in Panchkula. And, despite three prosecution witnesses turning hostile earlier this month, NIA officers said they were satisfied with the progress of the trial and expected a verdict within a year.
“As many as 135 witnesses have been examined during the trial. We could see a verdict from the court in roughly a year,” a senior NIA officer told The Indian Express.
During the intervening night of February 18 and 19, 2007, 67 people, including Pakistanis, were killed when two unreserved coaches of the Delhi-Attari Samjhauta Express caught fire following an explosion as the train was passing through Diwana station near Panipat, Haryana.
The trial started on February 24, 2014, with the NIA filing a chargesheet and two supplementary chargesheets in the case.
Those chargesheeted include Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand, Sunil Joshi, Ramchandra Kalsangra, Sandeep Dange, Lokesh Sharma, Ramesh Venkat Rao Mahalkar, Kamal Chauhan and Rajender Chaudhary.
While Joshi was murdered, Kalsangra and Dange are absconding.
On July 3, the NIA’s case received a setback when three prosecution witnesses — Shivam Dhakad, Kavita and Ganpati — turned hostile.
Kavita is the wife of accused Bharat Mohan Lal alias Bharat Bhai, a resident of Valsad who allegedly met Swami Aseemanand in 1999 and became his close disciple.
According to NIA, it was at Lal’s house in Valsad that one of the meetings linked to the blast was allegedly held in June 2006 – it was allegedly attended by Aseemanand and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur among others.
Dhakad, a close associate of murdered accused Sunil Joshi, was allegedly an RSS functionary in Dewas whose elder brother Rameshwar Dhakad was said to a BJP worker.
Arrested by Ujjain police on charges of murder, Dhakad is also a witness in the May 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case probed by the NIA.
The NIA’s chargesheet on the Samjhauta case alleges that Joshi took on the responsibility of causing the blasts.
“Sunil Joshi said that they should, any how, stop this train and stressed to target this train, because most of the travellers in this train are Pakistani Muslims. He allegedly added that Dange was an expert in bomb-making and would undertake the project. Aseemanand allegedly told Joshi that he would contribute financially as much as possible,” it states.