THE PANCHKULA Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on Friday summoned 13 Pakistani witnesses in the 2007 Samjhauta Express bomb blast case to appear in court from July 4 to 7. The blasts had occurred 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 from Delhi. Rajan Malhotra, NIA’s counsel, confirmed that the NIA court has summoned 13 Pak nationals, who were either travelling on the train that fateful day or are family members of the victims, to appear in the case. Summons would be served to them by adopting proper process through the Ministry of External Affairs. However, Malhotra said it is not yet clear whether Pakistani witnesses have to appear in Panchkula court or elsewhere near the India-Pakistan border.
On Friday, two camerapersons, Arpit Jaiswal of NDTV and Ashwini Kaushal of ANI, made their statements before the NIA court that one of the accused, Kamal Chauhan, had earlier confessed before the media on Februrary 14, 2012, when he was produced in the NIA court, that he had carried out the blasts on the Samjhauta Express. Video recording of Chauhan’s statement was also played in the NIA court on Friday.
Till date, out of a total of 299 witnesses in the case, 193 have recorded their statements and around 25 have turned hostile. Of the total eight accused in the case, four have been arrested and Lokesh Sharma was arrested on June 18, 2011. Sharma, along with the other two accused, namely Kamal Chauhan and Rajender Choudhary, are lodged in Ambala central jail. Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand is in Jaipur jail. However, one accused, Sunil Joshi, is dead and another three, namely Ramchander Kalsangra, Sandeep Dange and Ramesh Venkat Mahalar alias Amit, are still at large.
Two of the main accused in the Samjhauta train blast case, Swami Aseemanand and Lokesh Sharma, have been recently acquitted by the Jaipur NIA court in the Ajmer Dargah blast case.