Malegaon U-turn makes investigating agencies seem suspicious

The dropping of names of key accused in the Malegaon blast case has raised questions about the independence of investigating agencies such as the NIA.

Rakesh Bhatnagar May 14, 2016 10:46:00 IST
Malegaon U-turn makes investigating agencies seem suspicious

A huge question mark has been placed on the independence of ace investigating agencies such as the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and public prosecutors with the dropping of names of the key accused, “Sadhvi” Pragya Singh Thakur and Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit among others, from terrorism charges for the bomb blast outside a Mosque in Malegaon on 9 September 2008 which killed eight people.

Both these persons had been arrested by the NIA when the prosecutor was different. They were charged under the stringent anti-terror law, the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), and were directed by Supreme Court to face the trial court under MCOCA. But the NIA had laid the foundation of dropping their names of the charge sheet in February when the special prosecutor representing NIA had told a special court in Mumbai that he was of the opinion that the stringent MCOCA was not applicable in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case.

He had also revealed that Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi, who was appointed by the BJP led NDA government in May 2014, was also of the opinion that the charge of MCOCA couldn’t be applied on Thakur, a former ABVP activist, and Col Purohit.

It was no secret that prosecutor in Mumbai had been instructed by NIA in New Delhi that MCOCA couldn’t be invoked in this case.

Malegaon Uturn makes investigating agencies seem suspicious

File image of the Malegaon blast. Reuters

Both Ms Thakur and Col Purohit have been in judicial custody for about eight years.

While Thakur would be released on bail as she would face trial in the soft Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Col Purohit and nine others will now be tried for charges including murder and conspiracy under the provisions of anti-terror law UAPA, IPC, Arms Act and Explosives Substance Act.

Director General of NIA Sharad Kumar has sought to dispel the common perception that NIA changed its stance on the direction from new BJP government. He added that there was no dilution in the case.

When asked about the stand taken by the agency in the past when it had opposed the bail plea of Ms Thakur and others even in the Supreme Court, he said “till our investigation was not complete, we had to go by the probe done by the ATS. Now that we have completed the investigations, we have submitted our final report (chargesheet)”.

NIA prosecutor Geeta Godambe submitted the revised charge sheet before Special Judge SD Tekale.

However, Special Public Prosecutor in the case Avinash Rasal was not privy to this development and said he might put in his papers to protest against this unwarranted secrecy of dropping names of key accused from the case.

“I am hurt and I may resign from the case”, Rasal told reporters.

Earlier too, top public prosecutor Rohini Salian accused NIA bosses of pressurizing her “to go soft on Hindu terror suspects in the case ever since the new government came to power”. Later, she resigned as special prosecutor of NIA.

However, the days' development martyred a diligent Mumbai police officer Hemant Karkare again. He was killed in exchange of fire with Pakistan trained terrorists including Kasab on November 26, 2008. He was decorated with the Ashoka Chakra on 26 January 2009.

Karkare being head of Anti Terror Squad (ATS) had bust the conspiracy behind the Malegaon blast and arrested the accused persons. Now, the NIA has accused Karkare of fabricating evidence.

In fact Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju minced no words in his statement to a wire service when he said that "We found earlier that the UPA government has pressurised and influenced certain government officers on the basis of political motivated campaign by coining wrongful slogans like Hindu-terror of saffron terror which tarnished the whole community”.

"What our government is doing is that the investigative agencies have been given absolutely freedom to take action on the basis of available circumstances and evidences and as per the direction of the court," Rijiju said.

However, Congress leader Digvijay Singh has reacted sharply saying, “I had predicted BJP and RSS have started the process of saving the Sangh activists involved in terror cases.”

“The DG of NIA has been given extension for this case?” he asked.

But such U-turn tactics are quite often whenever there’s change of political government either in a state or the Centre.

In the series of criminal cases arising from Gujarat riots in 2002 and encounter killings, the public prosecutors changed their stand which paved the way for acquittal of accused persons. Some of the key accused have been acquitted, and no appeal has been filed by the prosecuting agency yet.

Even on acquittal of some key accused persons who now yield power, no appeal has been filed by the prosecuting agency.

Similarly, the stand of the UPA government on certain vital issues relating to its policies underwent a change with the new political party succeeding it but theirs is an exception to it.

Recently, Modi government took a U-turn from the stand consistently taken by UPA government when it told Supreme Court that Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) is not a minority university."It is the stand of the Union of India that AMU is not a minority university. As the executive government at the Centre, we can't be seen as setting up a minority institution in a secular state”, Attorney General Rohatgi told the top court as there was an uproar against the BJP government’s “anti-secular”  decisions.

More recently, the NDA government drastically changed UPA government’s long standing position on bringing back the $200 million Koh-i-noor diamond from UK. The Modi government told the Supreme Court that going by a 44-year-old law; the diamond cannot be reclaimed as it was given as a "gift" in 1849 by successors of Maharaja Ranjith Singh to the East India Company and not stolen or forcibly taken away from India.

Up until now, all the governments have said that essential steps would be taken to bring back the 105 carat legendary diamond. More importantly, the RSS too has demanding the return of the diamond to India.

Though the BJP had opposed the Mahatma Gandhi Guaranteed National Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA) and Aadhaar cards scheme under the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), it has dittoed both the schemes presumably because both the issues are directly related to common man, who matters a lot in the electoral system of governance.

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