NEW DELHI: A special NIA court, hearing the 2007 Samjhauta train bombing case, has agreed to Pakistan's request for more time to produce 13 of its nationals as witnesses.
The National Investigation Agency's lawyer informed the special court in Panchkula last week about the Pakistan Foreign Office expressing its inability to produce its nationals at short notice, official sources said today.
NIA handed over fresh summons to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) with fresh three dates-- November 29 and 30 and December 1 -- for sending it on to Pakistani authorities, the sources said.
The court had earlier issued summons on March 17 and asked witnesses to appear before it from July 4.
Of 299 witnesses, court proceedings for 249 have been completed.
Sixty-eight people were charred to death in the blasts in two coaches of the Samjhauta Express in Panipat on February 18, 2007.
The investigators had initially believed activists of the banned SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India) were behind the blasts, but later concluded that the attack had been planned by a group with right-wing leanings.
The NIA has filed a charge-sheet against several people, including Swami Aseemanand, who walked free in the Ajmer Dargah blast case earlier this year after prosecution witnesses turned hostile.
The NIA had on June 20, 2011, filed the charge-sheet before the special court at Panchkula under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against five people – Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand, Sunil Joshi (now dead), Lokesh Sharma, Sandeep Dange and Ramchandra Kalasangra alias Ramji.
The NIA, in investigations spreading over almost a year, held that the entire conspiracy was hatched between 2005 and 2007 by Aseemanand, Joshi and their associates at different places including Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
It further said Aseemanand was upset with terrorist attacks on temples – Akshardham (Gujarat), Raghunath Mandir (Jammu) and Sankat Mochan Mandir (Varanasi). He would "give vent" to his feelings while discussing the attacks with Joshi and his associates.
As a result, Aseemanand propounded a "bomb ka badla bomb"
(bomb for a bomb) theory, according to the NIA charge-sheet, which added that they chose the Samjhauta train as most of its passengers are Pakistani citizens.
The Samjhauta Express, also called Attari Express, is a bi-weekly train that runs on Wednesdays and Sundays - between Delhi and Attari in India and Lahore in Pakistan.