Kerala train arson case: Court grants 7-day custody of accused Shahrukh Saifi to the NIA

A special court granted the National Investigation Agency custody of the accused Shahrukh Saifi for seven days, from 2 to 8 May.

BySreerag PS

Published Apr 29, 2023 | 12:13 PMUpdatedApr 29, 2023 | 2:12 PM

Police officials inspecting the railway tracks after the train arson incident in Elathur. (Screengrab)

A special court has granted the National Investigation Agency (NIA) seven days of custody of the accused in the Kerala train arson case.

The NIA, which took over the case from the state police last week, produced Shahrukh Saifi before the court and sought his custody for detailed interrogation in the case.

The NIA court in Kochi granted custody of the accused to the agency from 2 to 8 May, sources said.

Saifi was lodged in a high-security prison at Central Jail in Viyyur, Thrissur, under judicial custody, which was about to come to an end on 5 May.

Also Read: Kerala police hunt for man who started fire in moving train

Last week, speaking to South First, Advocate Peethambaran, the chief defence counsel of Kerala State Legal Service Authority (KELSA) representing Saifi had said, “We will surely be challenging the NIA’s plea, but most probably the court would allow NIA his custody.”

Peethambaran said that the accused had told the magistrate that he was not facing any health issues. He also added that the accused person’s confession in custody would not have any legal validity in the court.

NIA challenges plea for bail

Shahrukh Saifi was discharged from the medical college in the city after undergoing treatment for injuries he suffered during an attempt to escape from the moving train.

Shahrukh Saifi was discharged from the medical college in the city after undergoing treatment for injuries he suffered during an attempt to escape from the moving train.

In the application seeking custody of the accused, the NIA said that the investigation has so far revealed that the accused started a fire, causing terror, panic and fear among the passengers on board the train, which resulted in the death of three people and injuries to many others.

“If the accused is released on bail, there is every possibility that the accused will hamper with the investigation and abscond, and may also commit such terrorist activities causing untold damage, both to life and liberty of the citizens, as well as damage to property,” the agency said in its application before the court on Friday, 28 April.

The case was registered under various sections of Indian Penal Code, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Railway Act and Explosive Substance Act.

Also Read: Kerala train arson: Suspect Shahrukh arrested from Ratnagiri

Kerala Police’s sanction to transfer case

In an order issued on 20 April, the state police chief said sanction has been accorded to transfer the case to the NIA’s Kochi unit with immediate effect.

The Crime Branch police superintendent in Malappuram was directed to hand over the “CD files, connected records and properties of the case” to the central agency in due course of time, the order said.

The NIA took over the probe from the Kerala police on Tuesday, 18 April, two days after the accused was booked under the UAPA.

Also Read: Police get 11-day custody of suspect; CM gives compensation

Recapping the night of horror

Saifi allegedly started a fire on board the Alappuzha-Kannur Executive Express as the train was nearing the Korapuzha bridge after Elathur Railway Station in Kozhikode on 2 April night.

The “hue and cry” notice issued by the Shaheen Bagh police. (Supplied)

Nine people suffered injuries in the incident. Three others, including a toddler, were later found dead by the railway tracks.

The police said Rahmath Manikoth, 45, her two-year-old niece Zahra Bathool, and Noufeeq KP, 40, might have been killed while jumping off the moving train in a bid to escape the fire.

Authorities found the bodies after Sarafudeen Mampally of Pappinissery in Kannur had reported that his wife Rahmath and niece were missing. He reported them missing after the train had reached Koyilandy.

Saifi reportedly travelled on the same train and hid near the Kannur Railway Station and boarded the Ernakulam-Ajmer Maru Sagar Express a little past midnight.

He reportedly jumped off the train near Ratnagiri in Maharashtra and suffered injuries. Though he was taken to the Civil Hospital there, he left the hospital to continue his journey to Ajmer.

However, the Special Task Force of the Maharashtra Police picked him up at the railway station and handed him over to the Kerala Police.

Also Read: NIA yet to seek custody of accused Saifi; case to be transferred

A food packet found in Saifi’s backpack sparked suspicion that he was not acting alone. The accused claimed that the food was packed at his Delhi home. However, the food was not stale.

Saifi, who had been helping his father in carpentry, had gone missing from Delhi on 31 March. Based on his family’s complaint, the Shaheen Bagh police issued a “hue and cry” notice to trace the man on 2 April.

A few hours later, he set the passengers on fire.

Also Read: Kerala train arson: NIA takes over probe; Saifi shifted to jail

(With PTI inputs)