Samjhauta Express blast verdict held up over Pakistani national’s last-minute plea

INDIA - FEBRUARY 19: Two bogies of Samjhauta Express (Attari Express), which run between India and Pakistan, caught fire reportedly by twin blasts at Diwana Station near Panipat in Haryana at around 2315 hrs IST on Sunday, leaving 67 people dead and over 50 injured. The dead and injured were mostly from Pakistan (Photo by Sipra Das/The India Today Group/Getty Images)

A Panchkula special court set to rule deliver its ruling in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blasts case on Monday held back its verdict after a last-minute application by a Pakistani national. Of the 68 people who were killed in the explosions and fire in two coaches of the train that runs from Delhi to Attari post, 42 were Pakistan nationals.

The surprise application was mentioned before the judge as soon as the court assembled on Monday afternoon. The judge was to deliver the verdict in the case against four persons including Swami Aseemanand, who was once a key coordinator of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, an RSS affiliate in Gujarat.

In the application, Rahila Vakil, who had lost her father in the bombing 12 years ago, asked the court to hear out the 13 Pakistani nationals who were witnesses in this case.

The Pakistani nationals, Vakil’s lawyer told the court, wanted to come but had not received any summons from the court. “Without their evidence, this trial cannot be decided on merits… and will cause irreparable loss,” she said in the application.

The other lawyers opposed the request, saying it was only a ploy to delay the verdict.

Manvir Rathi, counsel of the Swami Assemanand, said the court issued notices on the last-minute application of Pakistani national. “We accepted the notice and will file a reply on this application on March 14.”

Also, the prosecution lawyer RK Handa said: “The NIA will file a reply.”

The judge is expected to rule on the Pak national’s request on 14 March.

Momin Malik, the lawyer who filed the application on her behalf, had also represented her in compensation cases.

Over the last year, India has sent across summons through the external affairs ministry on several occasions. At one point, defense lawyers had said Islamabad had sought time to send 13 Pakistani nationals but there had not been any forward movement.

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