Activist and social worker Harsh Mander has filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court, asking for a probe into the "absolutely illegal and arbitrary actions of the government agencies" in the 2008 Malegaon blast case. The ministry of home affairs, the National Investigation Agency and the state government of Maharashtra are named in the petition.

The Public Interest Litigation was filed in response to recent statements made by Rohini Salian, special public prosecutor in the Malegaon case. Speaking to the Indian Express in June, Salian claimed she had been been pressured to "go soft" on the blast accused, who belonged to Hindu extremist groups. The instructions, she said, had come from the NIA, allegedly acting on behalf of its "political masters". According to the petition, the NIA's directions to Salian implied that she was to ensure there were no convictions.

State interference in judicial processes, the petition asserts, violates the "fundamental right to a free, fair and transparent trial". It is the state's duty to protect its citizens from terror, "irrespective of where it originates from, the creed and/or religion of the perpetrators", the petition said. It urges that the disclosures made by Salian not be brushed aside. It asks the court to appoint an independent special public prosecutor of "impeccable standing and integrity" to replace Salian, who is no longer on the case. The  petition is "intended to ensure that the public prosecutor in the said 2008 Malegaon blast case and several other cases registered and under trial in which the
same group of persons are the accused, performs his or her duties free of any  influence/control Governmental or otherwise".

It goes on to ask the court to launch an investigation into the allegations that the NIA had tried to influence Salian. If the charges are proved, it says, the court should take "a serious view of the matter" and initiate proceedings against those responsible, which may include officials of the NIA as well as "those on whose instructions" it was working.

Terror trail

In Malegaon, on September 29, 2008, explosives left in a motorcycle parked outside a transport company had killed four and injured 79 people. The probe launched by the Maharashtra anti-terror squad, then headed by the late Hemant Karkare, traced a terror trail that led to Hindu fundamentalist groups such as Abhinav Bharat, Rastriya Jagran Manch and Hindu Rashtra Sena.

The 14 people chargesheeted by the Maharashtra ATS include Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit, retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay, Pragya Singh Thakur, a former student leader of the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Sandeep Dange, a former pracharak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Swami Aseemanand of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, an affiliate of the RSS, and Godman Sudhakar Dwivedi are also believed to have played a role. The  accused had initially been booked under the stringent provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act. In April this year, the Supreme Court said there was insufficient evidence to charge the accused under the draconian law.

In 2011, the NIA was handed the Malegaon case and other cases involving the same accused. In June, the agency rejected Salian's charges, saying she was about to be removed as  public prosecutor when she went public with her allegations.

The petition comes up for hearing next week, said Indira Jaising, who filed the petition on behalf of Mander.

Scroll made several attempts to contact senior officials of the NIA but those authorised to speak with the media were unavailable for comment.

Here is the full text of what the petition asks from the Supreme Court:
In the facts and circumstances stated above, it is must humbly prayed that this Hon’ble Court may be pleased to

a. pass an appropriate Writ, Direction or Order appointing an Advocate of eminence and reputation having  high standards of integrity  as the Special Public Prosecutor for conducting the trial in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case;

b. pass appropriate Writ/Direction/order directing  investigation  by a Court monitored Special Investigation Team of the Central Bureau of Investigation into the alleged actions of  officials of NIA and their political masters on whose instructions they were operating on, who were pressurizing the Special Public Prosecutor, Ms. Rohini Salian to go soft on the accused; and after report of the investigation taken such action as may be necessary including registration of a First Information Report against such officials; and

c. pass such other order or orders as it deems fit and necessary in the interests of justice.