In November 2011, after nine Muslims accused in the 2006 Malegaon blasts were granted bail, former home secretary GK Pillai had termed their incarceration for five years as 'tragic' and had said that the state 'owes them an apology,' as per an NDTV report.
However, nearly five years later, the accused find themselves under a cloud of suspicion all over again, with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) saying that it will oppose discharging them of terror allegations, as reported by The Indian Express.
The NIA on Tuesday told a Mumbai court that while its investigation is 'conflicting,' the accused, whose role was investigated by earlier agencies, cannot be discharged. The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) have also investigated the 2006 Malegaon bomb blasts, which left 37 people dead.
This has led to a unique situation in which both Hindu and Muslim people accused of terror charges are being tried for the same case.
When the nine accused were granted bail by a Mumbai court in 2011, the NIA had chosen not to oppose their release. Moreover, in 2013, the agency had told the court that it had evidence to link them to the blasts.
In fact, as per a PTI report, it had specifically submitted before the court that the 'evidence collected by NIA in further investigation is not in consonance with evidence collected by ATS or CBI.' At the time, the agency had not opposed the discharge application filed by the accused. The NIA had taken this stand after the confession of Swami Aseemanand, who had been arrested in the Mecca Masjid blasts case, as per a report in The Times of India.
The court is likely to pass an order on the discharge application filed by the accused on 25 April, as per a Mumbai Mirror report.
The NIA's change in stance assumes particular significance after special prosecutor Rohini Salian made startling revelations that she was asked to go soft on the accused in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blasts, in which Hindu extremists are alleged to have been involved, as reported by The Indian Express. She also claimed that while she wanted the NIA to file a discharge application with respect to the Muslim accused in 2006 blasts case, the agency did not do so, another report by the newspaper states.
With the court slated to pass an order on the discharge application in less than two weeks, the fate of the nine accused in the 2006 Malegaon blasts hangs in balance again.