The agency, which has been probing the case since 2011, wants the court to decide the fate of the case and discharge pleas of the accused as there are separate chargesheets by three different probe agencies, based on their line of investigation and evidence.
The Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) had filed the first chargesheet against nine accused (Muslims) for the blasts that killed 37 and injured over 100 people. Later, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigated the case and filed a supplementary chargesheet on the lines of ATS. However, when NIA took over the case during the UPA government, it revealed that the attack was the handiwork of a “Hindutva fringe group”, on the basis of a confession by Swami Aseemanand, who was arrested for the 2007 Mecca Masjid blasts in Hyderabad. NIA filed a chargesheet against four suspects. The agency has, however, not been able to gather strong evidence beyond Assemanand’s confession.
“From the very beginning, our position has been the same. Maharashtra ATS and CBI have filed separate chargesheets on the same lines with different set of accused. We filed a chargesheet on the basis of evidence we could gather. The court has to take a call on which set of accused should face the charges and whether the other set of accused should be discharged. Before that, if somebody is discharged and if charges are framed against him/them later, the whole process would prove to be infructuous,” said an officer. He added that “if NIA asks for discharge of those accused by ATS/CBI, it would be commenting on their chargesheet”. “Why should we?” he said.
The 2006 Malegaon blasts probe is one of the rare cases where three different agencies filed chargesheets within a span of five years.
NIA had even sought legal advice in the case and the experts strongly advised the agency to neither oppose nor favour any discharge. “The legal advice to NIA is against seeking discharge of the nine Muslims arrested by ATS. So, while we did not oppose their bail as they never figured in our line of investigation, we are leaving it to the court to decide on their discharge. This doesn’t mean that we are opposed to it. But let the judge decide on the basis of two different lines of investigations as to who is liable to be prosecuted. Then the other side can be discharged,” said the officer.
He said that NIA had taken the same stand when former NIA prosecutor Rohini Salian, who accused the agency of going soft, had asked the investigators to file ‘discharge’ plea for the Muslim accused. “We told her then also that it’s not our job. The court will discharge them if nothing is found against them,” the officer added.