A National Investigation Agency court hearing the 2007 Samjhauta Express blasts case postponed proceedings to March 18, due to a strike by the Panchkula district bar association. On March 11, the court had deferred the verdict to Thursday, after a Pakistani woman moved a petition claiming she had evidence related to the case.
The explosion, which took place on February 18, 2007, had killed 68 people, including 10 Indians. In its chargesheet, the NIA said the blast had targeted Pakistani Muslims. The incident happened at Diwani village near Panipat, 160 km from Panchkula in Haryana. The train, which connects India and Pakistan, was heading toward Attari, the last station on the Indian side.
“Hearing was scheduled for today, however, the district bar association of Panchkula had suspended work on some local issue,” advocate Mukesh Garg, one of the counsels for the accused Aseemanand, said on Thursday, The Hindu reported. “In the wake of this, the court adjourned the matter and the fixed the next date of hearing on March 18.”
Local lawyers began an indefinite strike on March 12 to protest a judicial magistrate’s alleged harassment of an advocate, PTI reported. “We were not allowed to enter the court complex by the protesting advocates,” NIA counsel Rajan Malhotra said.
Garg, meanwhile, refuted in court the claim made by Rahila Wakeel, the Pakistani woman, that the eyewitnesses to the blast were not issued summons. He said Pakistani witnesses were summoned at least six times, but did not respond.
The NIA’s chargesheet has named several people, including Aseemanand, who was acquitted in the Ajmer Dargah blast case in May 2017 after prosecution witnesses turned hostile. Last year, Aseemanand was also acquitted in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case. Nine people were killed and 58 injured after an improvised explosive device exploded in the mosque in May 2007.
The NIA chargesheet in the Samjhauta blast case also includes the now-deceased Sunil Joshi, Lokesh Sharma, Sandeep Dange and Ramchandra Kalasangra. The agency’s investigation had revealed a criminal conspiracy hatched between 2005 and 2007 by Aseemanand, Joshi and their associates.