In an apparent attack on the BJP-led NDA government, veteran lawyer Rohini Salian, who represented the National Investigating Agency (NIA) in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case as a special public prosecutor, reportedly said that she had been asked by the agency to go soft on the accused (Hindu extremists) ever since the new government took charge at the Centre.
In an interview to leading national daily The Indian Express, Salian revealed that a senior NIA official had approached her twice during the trial in the case -- first to ask her to go soft and the second time to convey her the message that she will not appear for the agency in the case.
"Last year I got a call from one of the officers of the NIA, asking to come over to speak to me. He didn't want to talk over the phone. He came and said there is a message that I should go soft," the 68-year-old told The Indian Express.
"Then on June 12, the same officer came and said there are instructions from higher-ups; someone else will appear instead of you," she said, adding that she was expecting this.
After the second message, Salian asked them to remove her name from the notification about her appointment as the special public prosecutor for the state of Maharashtra, so that she could appear against the NIA in future, if need arises. However, she did not get the agency's response to her request.
"I said very good — I was expecting this, was waiting for this, good you told me up front, please settle my bills. You brought the notification, I didn't ask, I did it all free. Now get me denotified so that I can appear against NIA in future in other matters," Salian said.
After her interview with the daily, Salian met reporters at the sessions court in Mumbai, where she said the NIA has not registered even a single charge-sheet in the case ever since it took over the case from the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in 2011.
The ATS had in 2009 filed a charge-sheet against 12 Hindu extremists. Three more people were arrested when the case was under the NIA, however, they never faced any charges.
"But all the three got bail by default, because the NIA did not file a charge-sheet against them. They have not put in a single paper in court after taking over. What case we have all what the ATS has done," The Hindu quotes Salian as saying.
Those who were charge-sheeted by the Maharashtra ATS, included dismissed army officer Lt Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Shyam Sahu, Jagdish Mhatre, Shiv Narayan Gopal Singh Kalsanghra and Ajay Rahirkar.
Sahu, Mhatre, Kalsanghra and Rahirkar are out on bail, while Purohit and Pragya Singh's bail appeals were rejected. However, they can file another bail petition as the Supreme Court in April this year held that the duo cannot be tried under Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).
The apex court also declared that the Malegaon blasts case should be transferred to a special court led by a special judge.
"Finally, two months ago it was decided the case should be transferred to a special court with a special judge. So back to square one – very haphazard order. Now NIA needs to appoint a special judge and the specially constituted court and the trial will commence," Salian said.
On 29 September, 2008, two bombs exploded in Malegaon, killing seven people and injuring many others. Among the dead were four Muslims. The bomb blast took place during the Muslims' holy month of Ramzan.