Pronouncement of the verdict in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blast case was deferred Monday after a Pakistani citizen, the daughter of one of the victims, filed an application before the Special NIA Court claiming that proper summons were not served to Pakistani witnesses. In her application, she claimed that all Pakistani witnesses are ready to appear before the court for evidence.
The court issued notice to the NIA and the accused for March 14, seeking their replies to the application moved by Pakistan Punjab’s Hafizabad resident Rahila Wakil, daughter of victim Muhammad Wakeel, through Panipat-based advocate Momin Malik.
“No visa was granted to the eyewitnesses in this regard to pursue or their evidence in the said Hon’ble Court and the eyewitnesses/Pakistani witness does not have any knowledge about the ongoing stage of the case because no proper summons was served to them,” the application reads.
There are 13 Pakistani witnesses in the case. According to NIA officials and lawyers in the case, the court had issued summons earlier to Pakistani witnesses on three-four occasions through the Centre but no “satisfying response” was received from Pakistan due to which the court last month closed the evidence. Pakistan sought time on each occasion, an official said.
Sixty-eight people including 43 Pakistan citizens, 10 Indian citizens and 15 unidentified people were killed in the blast which took place on the Samjhauta Express on February 18 in 2007. Two IED explosions took place in two unreserved coaches between Diwana and Panipat.
The judgment was reserved on March 6 after arguments of both sides concluded and case law was cited in support of the respective contentions. The order was expected Monday.
The application moved under CrPC 311 for “evidence of the Pakistani witnesses/eye witnesses” will have to be now decided before the final decision. The provision gives the trial court the power to summon material witness, or examine a person present at any stage during the trial. According to lawyers in the case, it is the first time someone from Pakistan has directly approached the court.
Along with the application, advocate Malik also submitted a printout of an email received by him from Rahila Wakeel saying no witness has been called from Pakistan “even though we want to get record our statement in the case”. Rana Muhammad Shaukat and Muhammad Sammi Ullah, both said to be victims of the 2007 blast, are mentioned in the email as signatories. The email appears to have been sent only on March 11.
“They have had no knowledge of the summons. NIA proceeded through diplomatic channels but the Pakistani authorities did not cooperate in the matter. They now heard from media sources that a judgment is expected in the case, and contacted me that they want to appear before the court for evidence,” said advocate Malik, adding that he has been representing Rahila Wakeel ever since the beginning before other fora in India.
Rahila Wakeel, according to her advocate, came to India in 2007 looking for her father. Initially, she refused to believe that her father had died in the incident. “It was later revealed by the NIA to her that her father was also among the victims. She also gave blood samples when she came here for identification of her father, whose body was too charred for any identification. She also filed a claim before the Railways Tribunal in Chandigarh for compensation in 2010. We have won the case but the compensation amount has not reached her yet,” Malik said, adding they had laid claim for Rs 10 lakh but the compensation granted was lower than that.
Swami Aseemanand alias Naba Kumar Sarkar, who is the prime accused in the case, and three other accused, Kamal Chauhan, Rajinder Chaudhary and Lokesh Sharma, who are currently in Central Jail Ambala, have faced trial in the case. Three accused, Amit Chouhan (Ramesh Venkat Malhakar), Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange, have been declared proclaimed offenders. Another accused, Sunil Joshi — the NIA called him the mastermind — was killed in December 2007 in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh.