Social activist Harsh Mander alleges pressure on judicial officer
GN Bureau | September 11, 2015
The supreme court today sought response from centre and National Investigating Agency (NIA) on a plea challenging removal of Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case and alleging that government was exerting pressure on her to ‘go soft’ on the accused.
The allegation was that the NIA officials had pressured erstwhile SPP in case, Rohini Salian, “presumably” under instructions from their “political masters.” The high-profile accused in the case includes Lt Col SP Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur.
A bench comprising justices J Chelameswar and AM Sapre asked centre and NIA to file their responses within one week. Notice was also issued to Maharashtra government.
But the court did not allow the submission of senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Indira Jaising. They had sought hearing on the bail applications of the accused persons be stayed for the time being.
The public interest litigation, filed by social activist Harsh Mander, has accused NDA government of trying to interfere with the functioning of the prosecutor in the case by exerting “pressure” on her to “go soft” on the accused. It alleged that the executive was attempting to influence the judicial system.
Salian had alleged that an NIA officer had told her to go soft on the accused. She also claimed the same officer had told her that she would be replaced. Salian is no longer on NIA’s panel of lawyers.
The petition 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”.
The PIL also sought direction to the Centre to appoint an 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 4,000-page charge sheet had alleged that Malegaon was selected for the blasts because of its sizeable Muslim population. It named Sadhvi Pragya, Lt. Col. Purohit and another accused, Swami Dayanand Pandey, as the key conspirators.
The blast on September 29, 2008 had left four dead and nearly 80 injured.
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