Swami Asimananda’s retraction could be a strategy planned by his lawyers. The court may not accept it, reports Brijesh Pandey
ON 18 DECEMBER 2010, Swami Asimananda made a confessional statement before a magistrate of Delhi’s Tis Hazari court. In accordance with the law, he did this after reflecting for two days in judicial custody — away from any police interference or influence.
In effect, Asimananda admitted to his role in the blasts that occurred in 2007-08 at Ajmer, Mecca Masjid (Hyderabad), Malegaon and in the Samjhauta Express and said that RSS men were behind them. TEHELKA had scooped the explosive 42-page statement (In the Words of a Zealot, 15 January), creating an uproar, as the statement was seen as confirmation of the investigative agencies’ suspicions. Though his lawyer stated 20 days later that the statement was false, Asimananda repeated his confession before a Panchkula magistrate at the request of the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
But in a surprising reversal at Ajmer on 29 March, he submitted a letter to the court that was in effect a retraction. It read, “I have been pressurised by the investigative agencies to confess that I was behind these blasts.”
However, senior lawyers believe it won’t be all that easy for Asimananda to retract his statement. He would be hard pressed to explain why he made confessions to two different magistrates (under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code) in the first place. And most importantly, why he waited for nearly three months before claiming he was coerced by the investigative agencies to confess.
According to senior Supreme Court lawyer KTS Tulsi, “Retraction is part of legal strategy and is normally ignored. It will not damage the case if that confession is corroborated by other hard evidence. In that case, the confession is always admitted despite the retraction.”
Hard evidence is in fact emerging. According to a report in The Indian Express, the NIA has in its possession records of a call in which Swami Dayanand Pandey asks blast accused Lt Col Shrikant Purohit to provide RDX to Ramji Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange, just before the Samjhauta Express blast. The agencies also have a small but crucial scientific clue — a Nokia cell phone with a Vodafone SIM card. The phone was part of an IED that failed to explode and thus comprised the only clue in the Mecca Masjid terror strike, which killed nine and injured over 50.
Later on, striking similarities were found between this blast and the Samjhauta Express blast — such as the batteries of the three unexploded IEDs being exactly the same as those of the battery found in the Mecca Masjid blast. The investigating agencies are assiduously gathering such forensic evidence.
Asked if the retraction would be a major setback for the prosecutors, Prashant Bhushan, senior advocate of the Supreme Court, explained, “Because Asimananda made that statement before a magistrate, he will have to explain to the court how and why he made those statements. I don’t think that this retraction will damage the case, especially if the retraction is not credible. Moreover, the confessional statement is not the only basis of the case.”
Eminent lawyer Sushil Kumar is also of the opinion that it is not that easy to retract a statement made before a magistrate. “The question is: when were you under pressure?” he asks. “You can be under pressure both the times — when you make the statement or when you retract it. It is for the court to decide.”
Brijesh Pandey is Senior Correspondent with Tehelka