Malegaon blasts: PIL in SC accuses NDA govt of influencing trial

New Delhi: Accusing the NDA government of trying to interfere with the functioning of the prosecutor in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case by exerting "pressure" on her to "go soft" on the accused, an activist today moved the Supreme Court seeking a fair trial "as the executive is attempting to influence the judicial system".

The PIL filed by Harsh Mander alleged that National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials had pressured erstwhile Special Public Prosecutor in the case Rohini Salian to "go soft" on the accused "presumably" under instructions from their "political masters".

The petition, filed through senior counsel Indira Jaising, has alleged that Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which is the controlling Ministry of NIA, "have been allegedly trying to influence/pressurize an honest Public Prosecutor to go soft on the accused persons".

The petitioner has sought the apex court's intervention to ensure a fair trial as there were reasons to "credibly fear" that "executive is attempting to influence the judicial system to cave in to the pressure exerted by it in all matters, including affording protection to right wing extremists who sympathize with its ideology".

Salian, who was SPP in the case, had recently stirred a controversy when she alleged an NIA officer had told her to "go soft" on the accused, a charge denied by the anti-terror agency. She also claimed the same officer had told her that she would be replaced. Salian is no longer on NIA's panel of lawyers.

"That the factual conspectus afore-stated goes a long way in showing that the government of the day has tried to interfere with the functioning of special public prosecutor, treating the post as if it is under the Government in utter disregard to the principle laid down by this Court...," the PIL said.

It sought a direction to the Centre to appoint a SPP to conduct "fair" trial and constitute a Special Investigating Team of CBI to probe alleged actions of NIA officials who allegedly pressured Salian.

The PIL said pressure exerted on Salian by NIA officials seriously compromised a fair and transparent trial in the case. "If there is credible reason to fear that public prosecutors are made to succumb to the wishes of their political masters, it is submitted that public faith in the entire edifice on which the free, fair and transparent trial is based would crumble," it said.

Referring to Salian's interview to media, the plea alleged that she had made "startling revelations" regarding "hidden hands allegedly nudging the judicial system to free the accused in the 2008 Malegaon case."

The petition said the case involves people from "right wing extremist fringes of the society whom the present day Government is allegedly seeking to shield by diluting their stance in the prosecution of the case." It claimed the government was trying to soften their stance "which inevitablely would result in favouring of the accused, who belong to the majority community and thus strike a blow to the secular ethos of the Constitution and its mandate of protecting the interests of vulnerable minority."

"This is a case where the systematic victimization based on pre-existing prejudices is writ large and ultimately the fair conduct of the trial would be a very important factor in order to restore the confidence of the minority who have been demoralized to a great extent," the PIL said.

It said that SPP's hallmark of being independent from government influence has been "severely compromised" in the case as was obvious from Salian's statement.

"This is also supported by the fact the NIA since it has taken over the investigation from the Maharashtra ATS has not added any new evidence in the present matter despite strong evidence being available to it," it claimed. It said unless the apex court steps in, the victims of the Malegaon blasts cannot expect justice in the current scenario due to the "brazen illegalities" allegedly committed by the government.

The high-profile accused in the case include Lt Col S P Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur.

The 4,000-page charge sheet had alleged that Malegaon was selected for the blasts because of its sizeable Muslim population. It named Pragya Singh Thakur, Purohit and another accused, Swami Dayanand Pandey, as the key conspirators.

The charge sheet had alleged it was Pandey who had instructed Purohit to arrange for RDX, while Pragya owned the motorcycle which was used in the blast. Ajay Rahirkar, another accused, allegedly organised funds for the terror act, while conspiracy meetings were held at Bhonsala Military School in Nasik, according to the charge sheet.

Rakesh Dhawde, Ramesh Upadhyay, Shyamlal Sahu, Shivnarain Kalsangra, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, Jagdish Mhatre and Sameer Kulkarni were the other accused. The blast on September 29, 2008 had left four dead and nearly 80 injured.

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