October 2008- The Samjautha blasts were carried out with the help of activists of the Students Islamic Movement of India with the help of Pakistani nationals who had come from across the border- Safdar Nagori, chief of Nagori SIMI faction.
January 2011- I met with Sunil Joshi and Bharat Rateshwar at Balpur and I was told that there would be good news. I then returned to the Shabari Dam ashram and two days later read about the Samjautha blasts. I asked Sunil Joshi about the same and he said that his men had carried out the blasts- Swami Aseemanand in his confession statement before a Delhi court.
This is a very interesting tale of two confessions made by two persons from diagonally opposite factions in connection with the same case.
Safdar Nagori who had broken away from the mainstream SIMI since he wanted the faction to become more aggressive following the ban on the organization was arrested by the Madhya Pradesh police two years back. He was subjected to thorough interrogation and also a narco analysis test in which the police claim he sang about both the Mumbai train bombings and also the Samjautha blasts in which 68 persons were killed. During his interrogation he goes on to speak about the manner in which this deadly blast was carried out. He says that activists of the SIMI had carried out these blasts with the help of some Pakistan nationals who had come into India. The primary idea was that the Pakistan based terror groups were opposed to the idea of Indo-Pak peace talks and wanted to derail the same by targeting the tran and the people in it.
Swami Aseemanand on the other hand who was arrested only recently goes on to make a confession statement before the Magistrate in Delhi. During the confession he does not mention anywhere that he was kept in the loop about these blasts, but during a meeting with Sunil Joshi (now dead) in which he was told to expect some good news. Two days later he read about the blasts and Joshi told him that his men had carried it out.
Both the police and the National Investigating Agency have probed this case for quite some time. It was only a year back did the Aseemanand angle to the blasts come to the fore. Prior to that it was said that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba had used the support of the SIMI to carry out this attack.
The question now is which of these reports will be taken before the court. Legal experts say that when an investigation has dealt with two outfits in the past few years in connection with the same case, they will need to present both the cases before a court of law. The fact that Aseemanandâ€™s is a more recent confession does not mean that the Nagori report can be shunted out.
The investigating agency has a very big task ahead of them and since this case involves two sets of contrary statements they will need to probe harder and build up a case.
Justice N Satosh Hegde, former judge of the Supreme Court of India explains that a lot would depend on the judge since he will have before him both versions of this case. The investigating agency will have to place both the cases before him and convince the judge as to which version has more weight and why they have investigated the case in a particular direction. The judge in turn will have to evaluate the case and pass orders accordingly.
However in the legal scenario it appears that the Aseemanand confession will have a bit more weight when compared to the one made by Nagori. However the game for the NIA could change since it is possible that Aseemanand may retract his statement claiming that he had done so under duress. There is no laid down law which states that an accused cannot retract a confessional statement before the Magistrate under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. There are arguments galore across various courts in the country where the prosecution has been advancing arguments stating that an accused should not be allowed to retract a 164 statement.
The Nagori statement on the other hand will have less weight before the court since it was a statement made before the police and also during a narco analysis test which does not have much evidentiary value before the court as per orders of the Supreme Court.
Coming back to the instant case on hand, legal experts say that the onus is on the judge to evaluate the two statements. The fact is that both the statements per se have no evidentiary value before a court of law. There is a direct contradiction and both these statements have been made when the accused persons were under police custody.
Although it may be argued that Aseemanand statement will have more weight as it was made before a Magistrate, the law clearly states that this will not have evidentiary value and it is not sufficient to gurantee a conviction. The most such a statement could do is give supportive evidentiary value to the investigating agency.
The court will have to look into the other evidences supplied by the investigating agency to finally come to a conclusion. A lot would however depend on what the two accused persons- Nagori and Aseemanand finally say before the court. In addition to this if the NIA decides to go ahead with the Aseemanand angle to the case then it will need to explain why it is doing so.
Currently the NIA is completely focused on the Aseemanand angle and feel that there is more meat in this version of the case. However for that to happen they will need to take into custody the likes of Ramji Kalasanghra, Ashol alias Amith and Dange. Both versions will be probed thoroughly and it is not as though the Nagori version will be completely discarded. Investigations cannot be merely on the basis of statements and independent investigations are needed, a source in the investigating agency said.