A day after she told The Indian Express that she had been under pressure from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to go “soft” in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case from the time “the new government came to power”, Special Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian said she wanted to be “out of these cases” since “it’s over… the facts and circumstances speak for themselves”.
The 2008 blasts claimed the lives of four Muslims and alleged Hindu extremists are the accused in the case. The NIA is also handling other terror cases involving alleged Hindu extremists.
On Thursday, hours after the NIA put out a statement contesting her claims, Salian said: “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.”
“Once these allegations are made, it’s a question of faith for me. I don’t think, as a principle, I can take any of these matters as I cannot argue (cases) where I have given legal opinion in the past. It is not correct and goes against legal principles. Not just the Malegaon blast case, but also the others clubbed with it. In many and most cases, they have sought my opinion,” she said.
“I want to be out of these cases as I have now questioned the agency’s stand. And it doesn’t make sense to be involved in these cases because I know the cases and details from their end as a public prosecutor.”
“In future, if in any other case the NIA makes a fresh arrest, then I want to go on record that I would like to take up the case of the accused as an independent. Till here, I was bound as the public prosecutor for the state in their cases. 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,” she said.
“I have given my opinion in the 2006 (the earlier Malegaon bombing) case. Hindu khichdi paka rahe hain. I could have done something in the case as a prosecutor. Used the prosecutor’s power. They did not give it to me. Give me in writing, I will save everyone, in the interest of justice…”
“The yes-yes never came from them. They filed the chargesheet (2006 Malegaon bombing) behind my back… Since many months, they have not called. I was not told that I was de-notified until now.”
Earlier in the day, Salian was inundated with phone calls over her disclosures. “Till 11 am, it was 56 missed phone calls… too many people wanting to talk to me,” she said as she waited in court for judge P R Deshmukh.
Her day was “just the same” as she examined two witnesses in the 2003 Mulund blast trial.
“I think the ball is in their (NIA) court. I don’t know why people want to hear anything more from me. It’s now their (NIA) turn to speak,” Salian said, referring to phone calls from media houses.
When the first witness, police inspector Gangadhar Sonawane, walked up to the examination box, Salian asked him if could remember details from May 2003. His statement before her, she verified his movements from a Mulund police outpost and beyond while he recalled how he escorted an accused, Mohammed Sheikh, for a confession statement to a crime branch office. Whenever any detail escaped Sonawane, she would ask him again.
Sitting behind her in a long chair was Saquib Nachan, former secretary of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and an accused in the 2002-03 triple blasts case. “I read the news today. She is a no-nonsense person. She is not going to fear anyone.”
Nachan, who is also fighting a case in which he is alleged to have opened fire against VHP member Manoj Raicha in 2012 in Bhiwandi, said she seemed to be unaffected by the storm she had raised. “If the accused in the Malegaon blast and connected probes are inside (jail), it’s only because of stiff opposition from Salian,” he said.
Nachan, who argues his case himself, said he had been interacting with Salian since 2003. “And mind you, I am the accused in this case, and she is the prosecutor. But she is not going to oppose only because you are a Muslim. If she has evidence against you, she will fight to put you in jail. And if she doesn’t, then she will be impartial,” he said.
On the witness stand, inspector Sonawane was being cross-examined by the defence. When the defence lawyer asked him to speak loudly, Salian said: “Speak loudly. You need to be heard, right?”
By 2 pm, reporters walked into the court room, and wanted her to go live before TV cameras. “I don’t want publicity. I don’t have anything more to say… Don’t you watch us here… when we appear for the matter in court rooms. Everything happened in court rooms. Why were you not inquisitive then? You go and bring the answers from NIA now. The story is there.”
Later, she said: “Let me see how far my guts take me now… see the course of the future.”
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