July 10, 2015 12:00:00 am
Days after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) denied her statement to The Indian Express that she had been asked to go “soft’’ on the 2008 Malegaon blast case, special public prosecutor Rohini Salian said she had given her statement a lot of thought.
“I am a criminal lawyer. I am not stupid to make these allegations without having the evidence to back them,” Salian told The Indian Express. She said she kept quiet when she was approached by an NIA officer last year because “it was the first indication, the time was not right to talk about it… I waited until I had enough evidence of their intention, and that came during the course of the year.”
Salian also disclosed that she wanted to seek discharge of nine Muslims, arrested and chargesheeted by the Maharashtra ATS and CBI for a 2006 blast in Malegaon, but the NIA did not respond to her suggestion.
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Ever since her statement on being told to go “soft”, it has emerged that 18 witnesses have turned hostile in two other blast cases — 15 in the 2007 Ajmer dargah blast case and three in the 2007 explosion on board the Samjhauta Express. In a third case, the 2008 Modasa explosion, a closure report has been filed. All these cases were with the NIA and alleged Hindu extremists were
Salian said in the 2006 Malegaon blast case, she suggested discharge of the nine arrested by the ATS. “Since there are two sets of accused, both distinct and with no connection between them, the court would ask me to justify it. I had suggested to the NIA that they allow me to exercise powers given to the prosecutor under Section 321 of the CrPC to try and convince the court that some error had crept in on part of one of the investigating agencies which should be rectified by the court, “ she said.
“I had suggested that they give it to me in writing to allow me to make an application and try to make a discharge application. I had not promised anything, but told them I would try my best.”
“Initially, one level in the NIA accepted, then the second level accepted. But finally, there was no response to my suggestion. They just filed a chargesheet against four new accused. After that, I said I don’t want to appear in the matter,” she said.
NIA officers who did not wish to be named said the case was a “further investigation” and not a “re-investigation”, and probes conducted by the Maharashtra ATS and CBI could not be simply wiped out.
“It is a further investigation, and previous chargesheets filed in the case by earlier investigation agencies cannot be discarded as they have been placed before the court. It is for the court to decide who to discharge. We simply present a chargesheet to the court,” a senior NIA officer said.
The special NIA court in Mumbai has issued notices to the NIA, Maharashtra ATS and the CBI to adduce evidence regarding their chargesheets, before it takes a call on how the case should progress.
On September 8, 2006, four bomb explosions rocked Malegaon, killing 31 people and leaving 312 injured. Nine Muslim youths were arrested by the Maharashtra ATS for their alleged role in the blasts. On December 21, 2006 the ATS filed a chargesheet in the special MCOCA court against the nine accused and four others on the run.
Following protests from Muslim groups, the CBI took over the case in July 2007. The CBI, in its initial investigation, backed the ATS stand and filed a chargesheet against the same accused on February 11, 2010.
The case was handed to the NIA on April 6, 2011. Prior to this, Swami Aseemanand was said to have made a confession in the Mecca Masjid blast case that accused Sunil Joshi had told him that the bomb blasts at Malegaon were the handiwork of his boys.
In his statement, Aseemanand said a meeting was held in June 2006 at the house of Bharat Rateshwar in Valsad, during which he (Aseemanand) suggested that Malegaon, where 86 per cent of the population is Muslim, may be chosen first for a bomb blast. During the NIA probe, all nine accused chargesheeted by the ATS and CBI retracted their confessions, alleging these were secured under duress.
On May 22, 2013, the NIA filed a supplementary chargesheet against four accused — Sunil Joshi, Ramchandra Kalsangra, Ramesh Venkat Mahalkar and Sandeep Dange — before the NIA special court in Mumbai. Subsequently, the nine Muslim accused, chargesheeted by the ATS and CBI, moved court for bail, which was granted without opposition from the NIA.
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