The National Investigation Agency (NIA) produced Swami Aseemanand, a key figure in the Hindutva terror network, and his alleged accomplice Bharat Riteshwar in a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court here on Saturday in connection with the 2007 Ajmer dargah blast case. The court extended the judicial custody of the two accused till May 14.
Two other accused in the case – Harshad Solanki and Mukesh Wasani – against whom the charge-sheets were filed in the CBI court on Thursday, were also produced before CBI Special Judge C.N. Mathur, who has been designated to hear the NIA cases in Rajasthan. The NIA took over the probe into the dargah blast earlier this month.
The public prosecutor representing the NIA sought time for filing charge sheet against Aseemanand and Bharat, saying the premier agency had to start the investigation afresh. The Ajmer Chief Judicial Magistrate had on April 19 allowed the NIA to file the charge sheet in a maximum period of 180 days after the expiry of the mandatory 90-day period after arrest under the Criminal Procedure Code.
All the four accused were earlier lodged in the Central Jail in Ajmer, where the case was being investigated by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Rajasthan Police. The ATS has already charge-sheeted three accused – Devendra Gupta, Lokesh Sharma and Chandrashekhar Leve – in the Ajmer court, while Chandrashekhar has since been granted bail by the Rajasthan High Court.
The special CBI court here adjourned the hearing on NIA's application for extension of time for filing of charge sheet to Monday, when it will also hear the bail application of Aseemanand taking a technical ground under Section 167 (2) of Cr.P.C. which provides that no person can be kept in custody for more than 90 days after his arrest during investigation.
Fifty-nine-year-old Aseemanand, besides facing charges under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, is also an accused under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, under which a charge sheet can be filed in 180 days after arrest. However, his counsel contended that the prescribed period of detention under the Cr.P.C. had lapsed and the prosecution had failed to file any charge sheet showing his involvement in the blast.
Aseemanand has already moved a revision petition in the Sessions Court in Ajmer challenging the April 19 orders of the Chief Judicial Magistrate allowing the NIA to file the charge sheet in 180 days. The NIA has filed an application in the Sessions Court stating that the Union government had issued a notification transferring the dargah blast investigation to the agency on April 6, and the NIA Act, 2008, provides for a special court for the trial.
The CBI had arrested Aseemanand from Haridwar, Uttarakhand, in November last year. He was arrested in the blast case in January this year after he reportedly confessed to having taken part in the conspiracy for carrying out blasts at different places of worship across the country and especially targeted the Ajmer dargah to “deter Hindus from going [there].”
In his statements recorded before a Metropolitan Magistrate in Delhi and a Judicial Magistrate in Panchkula, Aseemanand reportedly admitted that the Muslim places of worship such as Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid, Malegaon mosque and Ajmer dargah were selected for blasts in revenge for the previous explosions. The NIA has also claimed his connection with the Samjhauta Express blast of February 2007.
However, Aseemanand later retracted his statements and claimed that he was made to confess under “physical and mental pressure” by the CBI. Significantly, he identified Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader Indresh Kumar, whose name also figures in the ATS charge sheet filed in Ajmer, as one of the “key conspirators” in the terror blasts who financed several of these plots.
The explosion in the world-famous dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti on October 11, 2007 during Ramzan, shortly after the fast-breaking custom of Iftar, left three persons dead and 17 injured. The 13th century dargah was packed to capacity with 5,000 devotees at the time of the blast.