Malegaon 2008 Blasts: Key witness statements nailing Purohit and others go missing from NIA court

By Staff Reporter,

Mumbai: In an embarrassment seven statements of witnesses recorded in Malegaon 2008 blasts case have gone missing from the Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) Court in Mumbai.

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These statements of witnesses were recorded before magistrate under section 164 of Criminal Code and hence admissible as evidence to prove charges against main accused in the case including Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit.

PTI reported that the issue came to light earlier this week when staff of the special court approached former Special Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian to inquire about whether she had with her some of the confessional statements of witnesses in the case.

“I was surprised when such a query was made to me. The court staff asked whether I had confessional statements of six or seven crucial witnesses recorded before a magistrate”, Salian told PTI.

“I conveyed that all documents had been handed over to the new Special Public Prosecutor Avinash Rasal in presence of NIA officers and, in any case, the originals were in the court records only,” Salian said.

The witnesses whose statements have gone missing include those of a close aide of Ramji Kalsangra who had “confessed” before a magistrate about the criminal conspiracy hatched to plant explosives in Malegaon in Maharashtra.

The new development of missing of such crucial documents of case came in the wake of Special Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian’s statement in June last year that NIA officers were putting pressure on her to go soft in the case.

Statements recorded in the presence of a magistrate have evidentiary value before the trial court.
These statements bear importance as they were recorded before magistrate and witnesses cannot deviate from their earlier testimony. Copy of the statements is available but the original copies are missing.

Therefore witness can still be called for deposition before the trial court so that he can be cross-examined but in case if the witness deviates from the statement given before the magistrate, the trial court may still rely on the statement.

On September 29, 2008, three blasts ripped through textile town Malegaon in Maharashtra killing seven persons. Initially Muslim outfit was suspected for the attack but the investigation headed by late ATS chief Hemant Karkare concluded that the Muslim outfit was wrongly implicated and it was the handiwork of a right wing group affiliated with organization ‘Abhinav Bharat’ which had carried out the blasts.