A special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court was supposed to deliver a verdict on the Samjhauta Express case on Monday, March 11, 2019. However, it has deferred its order for Thursday.
12 years ago, the Samjhauta Express was bombed while en route to Attari, a destination on the border between India and Pakistan.
Reports say that mostly Pakistani nationals died in the blasts.
What is the Samjhauta case?
On February 18, 2007, Samjhauta Express train no. 4001 that runs between Delhi and Lahore was bombed in Panipat, Haryana.
The train was on its way to Attari, a town on the Indo-Pak border.
68 people died and several of the train’s carriages burnt down. Of the victims, 43 were Pakistani citizens and 10 were Indians. The remaining 15 remain unidentified.
The Haryana Police established a Special Investigation Team (SIT) two days after the explosions. However, three years later, the NIA took over.
The NIA found that, of the four improvised explosive devices (IEDs) left in empty compartments, only two exploded.
Along with the bombs, the NIA investigation revealed that flammable substances left in the coaches caused the coaches to burn down.
Chargesheet and trial
In a year, the NIA filed a charge sheet accusing five people under the Explosive Substances Act and Railways Act, among others.
The Explosive Substances Act 1908 prohibits the use of explosions to damage life or property.
The act says that those convicted under it “shall, whether any injury to person or property has been actually caused or not, be punished with transportation for life or any shorter term, to which fine may be added”.
Ths 1908 act also allowed for imprisonment upto 10 years, including a fine.
The Railways Act that was established in 1989 and published in The Gazette of India.
This act regulates the overall working of the Indian railways, including any accidents caused on the tracks.
Under at least these two acts, right-wing activist Swami Aseemannand, Lokesh Sharma, Sunil Joshia, Sandeep Dange, and Ramchandra Kalasangra stand accused of targeting Pakistani Muslims.
Authorities believe that these five retaliated against the 2002 attacks on Hindu temples in Gujarata, Jammu and Kashmir, and Varanasi.
The NIA also discovered that these men were training with pistols and practising bomb making in Madhya Pradesh and Haryana.
The trial for the Samjhauta blasts was massive and included close to 300 witnesses. The NIA summoned 13 Pakistani witnesses through the Ministry of External Affairs, but they did not respond.
However, the Quint reports that Joshi was found murdered the same year the blasts took place. He is considered the mastermind of the attacks.
The source also says that Dange and Kalasangra are still missing. These two loaded the bombs on to the train.
Although Aseemannand has been acquitted in the Ajmer Dargah and Mecca Masjid blast cases, he has been released on bail in the Samjhauta case in 2016. However, he was present at Monday’s hearing.
India Today reported that in 2010, Aseemannand confessed his involvements in all bombings. He later retracted the statement claiming he was pressured.
Why was today’s decision delayed?
The NIA was set to deliver a verdict on the 2007 Samjhauta case today. However, it deferred its order after a Pakistani-woman made a last-minute plea.
Rahila Wakeel, daughter of Muhammad Wakeel, a victim of the train bombing, has asked for examination of Pakistani witnesses.
She claims that Pakistani nationals were ready to appear before the NIA special court but were not allowed to do so because of visa denials and improper summons.
“The eyewitnesses/Pakistani witnesses do not have any knowledge about the ongoing stage of the trial because no proper summons was served to them”, said Wakeel.
She also wants to place additional evidence before the court.
Although Special Judge Singh questioned Wakeel on why she waited till the eleventh hour to act, the court decided to hear her petition on Thursday.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius.