Rohini Salian, Special Public Prosecutor in the case related to the 2008 Malegaon blasts case in which four Muslims were killed during Ramzan and in which Hindu extremists are the accused, has said in an interview to the “Indian Express” that over the past one year, since “the new government came to power,” she has been under pressure from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to go “soft” in the case.
Asked when she got the feeling that she was being asked to go slow, she replied, “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.”
She further told the “Indian Express” : “A day before our day when Mr Mariar Puttam, a senior counsel, was to appear for us, an additional general from the state of Maharashtra came and said, “You cannot appear for us.” He started nudging Mariar. Then another additional general for the state, Anil Singh, came and said he will appear for the state and Mariar cannot. Both started to nudge Mariar — in the open court, both were nudging him. I am sitting behind him. I told Mariar not to appear. It was so insulting. Mariar finally got up and said to the judge, “Your lordship may decide. This is my instruction. I may be allowed to go out.” The judge said you have been here for many months, we would like to hear you. He was heard, our affidavit taken. But the way NIA and the state of Maharashtra nudged him showed something very fishy. If they were treating a senior counsel like that, I knew then something was seriously wrong. Ultimately the order came, the judgment given. It was horrible; after the order came no one called me. NIA hasn’t called me till today to discuss. They were so unhappy because MCOCA was retained”
"Again on June 12 this year, the same officer met me and conveyed orally that I was to be replaced by some other lawyer in this case. I told him to settle my bills and denotify me as a prosecutor in this case. However, till date, neither a notification has been issued about my replacement with some other lawyer nor my bills settled," the prosecutor said.
Salian, however, declined to name the officer who met her. “He is very senior. But I have nothing against him. He is just the messenger,” said the prosecutor.
When pointedly asked why the new Government wanted her to go soft in the Malegaon case, Salian said : “If you see my record, all favourable orders for the state. Hardly any gone against, except for these few bail applications… So the meaning very clearly was, don’t get us favourable orders. Unfavourable orders invited — that goes against society. I have a reputation; it’s not my baap ka raj. It’s an onerous duty.”
The prosecutor said she had raised a dispute with NIA over her remuneration. While the NIA was ready to pay her fees on par with what CBI prosecutors get, Salian refused to accept this saying she should be paid more as done by the NIA in the past.
The 68-year-old lawyer said she had appeared for NIA in two cases. One was the fake currency case in which six accused have been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by a special court. Their appeals are pending in the Bombay High Court. The other case is the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast.
In the 2008 Malegaon blast case, 12 persons, including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit, were arrested. Of these 12, four are on bail.
The NIA took over the case in 2011 and later three more accused were arrested. However, they were granted bail in the case by default as chargesheet was not filed against them.
The Malegaon blast on September 29, 2008 killed four persons and injured another 79. Investigations initially cast suspicion on the involvement of minority community in the incident. However, the probe under late Hemant Karkare, the then ATS Chief, suspected the involvement of right wing extremists and arrested Sadhvi Thakur and others.
Asked what would she do after NIA removes her from the Malegaon case, Salian said she would take up other cases. "I may even take up cases to defend accused in other NIA cases."
Salian refused to identify the NIA officer who had asked her to go soft on the accused in the Malegaon bomb blast case.
A lawyer of 25 years standing, Salian is also a prosecutor in Mulund bomb blast case (in which three cases are clubbed together) and 2002 Ghatkopar bomb blast case. She has also appeared in some high profile TADA cases and MCOCA cases.
Salian, who hails from Mangalore in Karnataka, has also served as the Chief Public Prosecutor in Mumbai for close to five years in the past. She was also the public prosecutor in the 1992 JJ hospital shoot out case in which underworld don Dawood Ibrahim's aide Subhash Thakur was sentenced to death.