A day after Rohini Salian, the National Investigation Agency’s Special Public Prosecutor in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, accused the agency of asking her to “go soft” on the accused, the agency hit back, denying the claims.

Special Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian.Special Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian.

Special Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian.

In a statement issued, the NIA suggested that Salian’s denotification as SPP was already under process as five new officers were available to represent the agency in court and that the question of her going soft on the accused does not arise as the matter is not yet in the trial stage.

At a meeting on 25 May, it was decided that 33 new SPPs were appointed, including five for Maharashtra.

“The performance, suitability and availability of the special PPs who are in the panels for five years or more or who are in the last quarter of completing five years, will be assessed and, if need be, recommendations be made for de-notifying them. In compliance of the decision of the designated committee, heads of NIA branches were asked to send their recommendations for de-notification. In response, the Mumbai branch on June 16 has recommended for denotifying three Special Public Prosecutors including Rohini Salian (who will be completing five years on 31 August) in view of many SPP already available for representing the branch,” the NIA said in a statement issued on Thursday.

But Salian was quick to retort, saying she wanted to be “out of these cases” since “it’s over… the facts and circumstances speak for themselves”, she told The Indian Express, adding that she if any other person were arrested by the NIA in the case, she would be their counsel.

“I have not been communicated on this matter. It’s a press statement… I am not aware of anything. They (NIA) have not told me directly. I was approached by them to represent them, so this process of empanelment (of special public prosecutors) they speak of is lost on me,” she said, adding that “at least I am free now. From my side, it’s over. It doesn’t affect me anymore. The facts and circumstances speak for themselves. They can deny that no officer communicated with me, but that doesn’t change anything for me… That doesn’t change anything for them.”

Salian had claimed that on 12 June, an NIA officer approached her, saying higher-ups did not want her to represent the case.

The NIA, however, claimed that the work for a SPP starts only after the investigating agency files charge-sheet in a trial court, and so her argument does not hold.

“NIA Special Court proceedings during the stage of investigation are of miscellaneous nature and usually the branch PPs deal with the same, except when a complex legal matter is involved which warrants the services of SPP.

“The Malegaon blast case 2008 has not yet reached the trial stage. Therefore, it is incorrect to infer that Salian was being bypassed for court appearances,” it said.

“Further, NIA completely denies the issuance of inappropriate briefing by any officer of the agency to the SPP or creating impediments in her prosecution work of NIA cases she has been handling,” the statement said.

The Malegaon 2008 case was investigated by late IPS officer Hemant Karkare, who was killed in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, and the case opened a Pandora’s box, with members of groups owing allegiance to Hindu outfits being arrested.

After this case, the Malegaon 2006 blasts was also found to be a handiwork of right-wing terror groups, besides the infamous blast in Samjauta Express, the rail link between India and Pakistan, Ajmer Sharif blast in Jaipur and twin blasts in Hyderabad.

A serving Colonel of Indian Army Col R Purohit, and Sadhvi Pragya have been arrested in connection with Malegaon 2008 blast case and have been since in custody.

Salian had alleged that she had been asked to “go soft” on the accused who were to apply for bail in the Bombay High Court again.

The NIA has filed a charge sheet in the Malegaon 2006 bomb blast case against four accused Lokesh Sharma, Dhan Singh, Manohar Singh and Rajendra Choudhary, who were arrested by the agency after two years of probe from various places. However, the charge sheet in 2008 case was yet to be filed due to litigations in various courts from time to time.

While 37 deaths took place in the 2006 blasts, the 2008 blasts had claimed the lives of eight victims.

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Case of sour grapes? NIA and Rohini Salian spar over going ‘soft’ in Malegaon case