Geetanjali Minhas | July 13, 2015
Special public prosecutor Rohini Salian dropped a bombshell when she said in a media interview in June that the national investigation agency (NIA) had asked her to “go soft” in the Malegaon blasts case of 2008 – in which some Hindu hardliners are the accused. In an interview with Geetanjali Minhas she explains why she had to speak up.
After ten years in the public prosecutor’s office, you have quit, saying you were “fed up”. What made you say that?
I was in a rut. I was too busy and occupied, had no time to breathe, eat or sleep. During various cases as the chief public prosecutor or special public prosecutor with the administration and police, as many as 82 police stations would contact me time and again. Though it was very satisfying to help them, it all felt very stereotyped to me and a time came when I felt like quitting it all. At one stage I felt we had done enough on MCOCA – from day one I was into it – and things were under control in Maharashtra. I felt someone else should take over as I was doing the same thing over and over again. I am not a person who gets caught in rut. I wanted freedom.
Do you feel you should have spoken out last year itself when an NIA officer conveyed to you to “go slow”?
No, no. Because I never speak without proper proof. It could be a passing comment by someone, but I have to be sure who it comes from. Even after that, they asked me to appear [in court]. I was appearing till the end and they finally said to me that now your services are not required. I said OK. I thought I must now tell what happened.
Was it the same officer again?
The same officer. And finally they are saying that my performance was not good. In the fake Indian currency notes [FICN] case earlier, we got life term for six accused under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act as possession and circulation of counterfeit notes is held to be a terrorist act. The director general of NIA gave me a letter of commendation for the same. Now they are saying I am underperforming. So far whenever I have appeared we have received favourable orders. Maybe I am not amenable to their request; therefore my performance is not good.
NIA has denied any inappropriate briefing by its officers.
That is their choice. I cannot say anything about it. It is their side of defence.
The government of the day pushing public prosecutors towards its political goals may not be a new development. Did you ever get such instructions from other regimes earlier?
No. Therefore, I am agitated this time. I have been a prosecutor for very long time. If I sense any inclination against myself [my convictions], I stay away. My conscience does not permit me to bear certain things and if I do, I will be suffering. So right from the beginning I put my foot down: ‘Sorry, if you don’t like me, take your brief.’ This is my attitude. And that is what I did. The prosecutor should be left free. Not only that – because they had faith in me, they came to me. They must have verified my credentials before coming to me. I was initially reluctant to take up the brief as I had already resigned from the chief public prosecutor’s post and was thinking of going to defence only. In the FICN case, they had approached me first. And that is the only case where the trail is over; the rest are all pending.
That is how the system works...
The system is all there, we are all part of the system. Whoever has the guts to say no should get up and say no. It’s all up to the individual.
Do you think the government will take back the charges against those wrongly framed in Malegaon blasts?
I don’t know what is happening on it. I am out of it.
Considering the shape that the Malegaon case has taken now, will perpetrators be brought to book?
I don’t want to comment on assumptions and presumptions.
NIA said since you will be completing five years, therefore denotification orders will be issued.
My notification was not for five years at all. I have the copy of that notification. This is another blatant lie. They have the choice to take out any prosecutor. Do that, but don’t give out false excuses. If it is their policy, I don’t know. Without asking me they have brought that notification initially. For a good cause I can help anybody, if it is a genuine case, but don’t come to me with ill intentions. It is because of good people that governance is going on and we are still a democratic country.
This must have been a tough time for you.
No. I am used to all this and don’t get excited. I have been in this profession for more than 32 years. It is part of the game and it goes on. I don’t want to get anything from this. I have not said anything in excitement. I wanted this to be told to the public; that this is happening, you better watch out. That’s all. Apart from that, I have nothing to gain or lose. People are there with me but I am not getting carried away with that. I speak according to my conviction and I never wanted any support or praise. My conscience is god. Whenever I feel I should stand up and say something, I will say. If I don’t say so I will be supporting the cause indirectly and that is as good as aiding and abetting. Why should I be a party to it? If something goes wrong in the court I will be blamed. If there is no evidence against somebody, it is not there. If it is there, I am going to say so in the open court. We are independent bodies of prosecutors. As advocates we are supposed to assist the court in arriving at justice.
What are your plans now?
I am an advocate. I can take briefs from the defence as well as the prosecution. I have many pending prosecution cases of the state of Maharashtra. At present I am in the midst of the Mulund blasts case. In the Panvel rape case I am arguing the appeal. In advocacy, cases come and go.
(The interview appears in the July 16-31, 2015 issue)
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