The National Investigation Agency on Monday told a court Rajender Chaudhary alias Pehalwan, who allegedly planted a bomb in Samjhauta Express in 2007, played a key role in the entire operation, claiming he was instrumental in preparing and procuring the explosive devices.
Pehalwan, in his mid-30s, was arrested by the NIA on Saturday night from Nagda, 50 km from Ujjain, where he was living under an assumed name. He was produced before a NIA designated court at Panchkula in Haryana on Monday afternoon.
Special Judge of NIA Kanchan Mahi gave the investigating agency Pehalwan's remand till December 28 after it had sought his custody for a fortnight.
Amid high drama while being taken inside the court, Pehalwan claimed before a group of media personnel his involvement in planting the explosives, but after the court hearing ended, he retracted and told the journalists he had been taken into custody "under a conspiracy."
A huge explosion had occurred in Samjhauta Express near Panipat in Haryana on February 18, 2007 and the subsequent fire in the coaches had resulted in the loss of 68 lives, including women and children.
"As soon as Pehalwan was produced, the defence counsel moved an application that they be allowed to meet him. The court allow the defence counsels and the accused's father to meet him for five minutes," NIA Special Public Prosecutor R K Handa told reporters at the end of the in-camera proceedings.
The NIA apprised the court that the accused, after his arrest, was produced before a court in Ujjain and brought on transit remand to Panchkula, where he was medically examined on Monday.
"We submitted before the court that the accused played a key role in the plantation of IED in the compartments in Samjhauta. He along with co-accused Kamal Chauhan recced the area around the Jama Masjid and the Old Delhi Railway Station in Delhi," said the prosecution.
Pehalwan was also instrumental in the preparation and procurement of the (explosive) devices. He was part and parcel of training in explosives in Karni Range in Faridabad and in Devas in MP," Handa said.
He said the NIA sought 15-day remand "to cross-check and interrogate the accused and to unearth the entire conspiracy."
"We asked for 15 days remand since the investigation in the case is spread over vast areas from Haryana to Delhi to MP," Handa said.
He further said that the defence had moved an application before the court seeking presence of lawyers during Pehalwan's interrogation by the NIA, which may involve the accused being taken to various places, but it was declined by the court.
The accused's counsel Padamkant Dwivedi opposed the NIA remand to Pehalwan and also said that NIA had taken 48 hours to produce him before the court at Panchkula, 24 hours more than what it should have taken.
Earlier, NIA had announced a cash reward of Rs five lakh for Pehalwan alias Samundar Singh's arrest.
According to NIA's supplementary chargesheet, Pehalwan received training in Bagli forest of MP's Dewas district in January 2006 along with Kamal Chauhan, Amit and Lokesh Sharma.
The training organised by Sunil Joshi, the mastermind behind the train blasts, was about preparing pipe bombs and pistol firing.
The initial probe into the bomb blast was conducted by the Railway Police and the Special Investigation Team of the Haryana police. It was subsequently taken over by the NIA on July 29, 2010 following a directive from the home ministry.
NIA had on June 20, 2011, filed the chargesheet before the special court under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against five accused -- Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand, Sunil Joshi (now dead), Lokesh Sharma, Sandeep Dange and Ramchandra Kalasangra alias Ramji.
The investigating agency had in August this year also filed a supplementary chargesheet in the case against Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh worker Kamal Chauhan and an associate in a special court at Panchkula charging them with murder, conspiracy and other offences.
Lokesh Sharma, a close associate of Sunil Joshi, had sent Chauhan and Pehalwan for the recce in December 2006.
Later, Old Delhi railway station was selected (for planting the bomb) from where the train originates, according to NIA sources.
Samjhauta Express was chosen as the target. Chauhan and Pehalwan came to Indore on February 17, 2007 and took delivery of suitcase bombs to plant them in the train the next day.