The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday told the Bombay High Court that it would not examine witnesses, whose names have been truncated in its chargesheet for the 2008 Malegaon blast case, in the NIA trial court for a week.
A division bench of Justices I A Mahanty and A M Badar was hearing a petition filed by an accused, Colonel Prasad Purohit, challenging the order of the special NIA court which rejected his application seeking access to “untruncated” copies of documents. The special NIA court had stated that the accused’s pleas were “vague” and filed with an intention to delay the trial.
The trial court was expected to record evidence of the witness who had conducted the spot panchnama after the blast. The witness had last week identified two motorcycles including an LML Freedom — which the ATS claimed belonged to accused Pragya Singh Thakur — and five bicycles present at the spot.
On Monday, before the cross-examination of the witness by Thakur’s lawyers could resume, the high court proceedings were communicated to the trial court.
The defence lawyers said though the current witness’ identity has already been revealed, he was also part of the list of truncated witnesses. The court then deferred his deposition till next week.
The NIA told the court that there are a total of 495 witnesses, of which the ATS truncated 186 and it truncated 13.
Representing Purohit, advocate Shrikant Shivade told the high court that the special NIA court is presently conducting the trial on a day-to-day basis, and if any witness whose name is truncated is being examined, then they won’t be able to seek adjournment on that ground. NIA counsel Sandesh Patil told the high court that the agency will not examine any witness whose name is truncated until July 22.
The case was adjourned to next Monday.
When opposing Purohit’s plea before the special NIA court, the agency had stated that the case is highly sensitive, and in order to protect the interests of the witnesses, their identities were not disclosed.
In the petition before the high court, Purohit said there is no logic in the NIA holding an open trial and exposing the names of witnesses to the glare of media and public while at the same time supplying truncated documents to the accused.
Purohit’s petition further added that the stand taken by the prosecution to truncate the names of witnesses is contrary to the principles of fair trial and deprives the defence of relevant material.