Malegaon chargesheet-Its ATS vs NIA
It was an interesting move on part of the ATS which went ahead and filed a 305 page chargesheet against Praveen Muthalik in the Malegaon case. This chargesheet is significant since it comes at a time when the National Investigation Agency has been ordered to take up the same case and re probe it.
What can one expect in such an event? Many questions are being asked and this development makes one wonder whether Home Minister P Chidamambaram was right when he told the US Ambassador that he doubted the legality of the constitution of the NIA.
However going by the rules of the NIA it clearly states that it can take over any investigation pertaining to terrorism in the country. Now that this has been done in the Malegaon case, the question is what relevance does the ATS chargesheet have? Legal experts term the chargesheet as a mere formality because the NIA will sooner or later file a fresh chargesheet which will finally be the one which will be referred when the trial commences.
At no point would the investigating agency want to try and push two chargesheets into the court room which tries these accused. The accused would get an upper hand in the case and seek an acquittal on the grounds of double jeopardy. This clearly means that the chargesheet which has been filed by the ATS will not be the one used during the trial. The accused in the case would have to wait to much longer before their case could go on trial.
The NIA would certainly probe the case afresh and as per Rule 6 of the NIA act of 2008 they have the power to take fresh statements from all the accused who find a mention in the ATS chargesheet. Sources say that the NIA investigators would go through the entire exercise once again and only then come out with a chargesheet.
Ganesh Sovani, advocate for Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur one of the accused in the Malegaon case says that the chargesheet by the ATS is a formality and it is their perception that they have put into it. Ultimately the matter will be probed by the NIA and it is their chargesheet that would prevail. Whether the NIA would depend on the chargesheet filed by the ATS would be a matter that one would have to wait and see. However it seems unlikely since if that is done then the very purpose of the NIA taking over the case becomes a futile exercise.
The Malegaon case will be the first time that the rules of the NIA will be tested. Indications are that the ATS will not go to trial with the chargesheet that they have filed today and would instead wait for the NIA to take over and put forth their version before the court.
Moreover the NIA probing the Malegaon case makes more sense considering the scope and the jurisdiction that the agency has. Sources say that going by the statement of Swami Aseemanand, it makes it clear that the Malegaon case was linked to the Mecca Masjid, Ajmer and also the Samjautha Express blasts. The NIA will not view both the Malegaon cases as individual cases but would join the dots where the other cases are concerned. The NIA so far has independently probed all the accused involved in this case and are still on the hunt for Ramji Kalasanghra and Dange who are most crucial to the case.

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