Court calls NIA’s stand ‘ulta face’, says riot plot theory unacceptable
Asks Why Accused Would Target ‘Own Community’ To Create Disharmony
Mumbai: A special NIA court on Monday discharged eight accused arrested by the ATS in the 2006 Malegaon blasts case. Among those granted relief by special judge V V Patil are Mohammed Ali (47) and Asif Khan (44), who are currently serving their sentences in the 2006 Mumbai train attacks case. While Khan was sentenced to death, Ali is serving a life sentence.
The case against one accused, Shabbir Masiullah, was abated after he died in a wall collapse last year. The others, Noor-ul-Huda (34), Dr Salman Farsi (41), Raees Mansuri (46), Dr Farog Makhdoomi (43), Mohammed Zahid Majid (36) and Abrar Ahmed (43), have been out on bail since 2011.
The order comes ten days after the NIA, unlike its previous stance, strongly objected to the discharge pleas. Dubbing it as an “ulta face”, the judge said, “At the time of the first hearing of the matter, the prosecution has canvassed that they have nothing to say except the reply filed by the NIA upon the discharge applications,” the judge said. During its reply to the discharge plea in August 2013, the NIA had not opposed the pleas and instead said its evidence “was not in consonance with the evidence collected earlier by the ATS and the CBI,” which had recommended the prosecution of the nine accused.
The ATS, in its chargesheet filed on December 21, 2006, had claimed that the accused had intended to stir up communal riots in the Hindu and Muslim communities and had hence planted bombs at the Hamidya Masjid, Kabrastan and Mushawart Chowk on the holy day of Shab-e-baraat.Stating that this was not acceptable to a man of ordinary prudence, the judge observed, “I say so because there was “Ganesh Immersion” just prior to September 8, 2006, which is celebrated in the entire state of Maharashtra. Had the accused any object that there should be riots at Malegaon then they ought to have planted bombs at the time of Ganesha Immersion day, which would have caused death of most of the Hindu people. It seems to me highly impossible that the accused who are from Muslim community would have decided to kill their own people to create disharmony in two communities, that too on a holy day.”
The judge also pointed to several findings of the NIA. The agency had said that two witnesses, who were supposedly present when the ATS took soil samples from Masiullah’s godown where the bombs were prepared and kept hidden, had told them that they were in fact not present at the time. The NIA further pointed out that Masiuallah was in fact arrested by the ATS on August 3, 2006 and was in judicial custody at the time of the blasts.
The court also referred to NIA findings in which it had said that an ATS witness, who had earlier stated that he had witnessed the bomb preparation, had retracted his statement and said it was taken under duress. Also, it had found that all the confessional statements of the accused recorded by ATS were retracted as they were taken under “pressure and duress”. Another accused, Mohammed Majid, accused as one of the planters as per the ATS, had told the NIA that on the day of the blasts he was 400km away at Fulsawangi in Yavatmal district. The NIA said 12 persons were examined who supported his version.
The arguments in court at the discharge plea hearing revolved on questions of law. The ATS, standing by its case, had said the question was whether it would be open for the court at this pretrial stage to hold that the version of one of the agencies should be accepted without examining witnesses. NIA had not named the nine, accused by the ATS. The defence lawyers had argued that innocent accused cannot be made to pay for inconsistencies and lapses of investigating agencies.
KPS Raghuvanshi, the then ATS chief, was not available for comment, despite repeated attempts by TOI.