An aling NIA- Witch hunt or ego?

In a span of hardly 5 days two persons accused in the Malegaon and Mecca Masjid blasts case were granted bail by the court. Ironically the bail granted was not on the basis of merit, but thanks to the failure of the National Investigating Agency to file a charge sheet in the stipulated time frame of 90 days as mandated by the Code of Criminal Procedure. A clear indicator that in both these cases the NIA has not managed to put up a case for the courts to take cognizance.

The first question that comes to mind is whether the NIA has enough against these accused persons who they rounded up by the dozen. However while speaking to scores of officials in Hyderabad, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan it becomes very clear that it is an ugly ego battle on between the local police and the NIA which is hurting the cases bad.

Many legal experts and police officials who have been following these cases closely (Malegaon, Mecca Masjid, Ajmer and Samjautha) are of the view that the road ahead for the NIA looks very tough and there may be many more accused who would come out on bail due to the fact that the charge sheets are not filed in the mandatory period.

On the first of June, a Hyderabad court granted bail to an accused by the name Bharath Ratheshwar. The NIA had arrested him in connection with the Mecca Masjid Blasts case. The court had granted him bail on the ground that the NIA had failed to file a charge sheet even after being granted time of 180 days. The Cr.PC makes it clear that a charge sheet shall be filed in 90 days after the arrest failing which the accused is entitled for bail unless the investigating agency is able to give sufficient reason for the delay.

On Tuesday another accused in the Malegaon blasts-2008, Lokesh Sharma secured bail on similar grounds that the NIA was not able to file the charge sheet in the 90 day stipulated period.

In addition to this there have been other cases too in which bail has been granted to the accused. Sham Sahu, Shivnarayan Kalsanghra and Ajay Rahirkar, all accused in the Malegaon case too were granted bail. While granting bail to these accused persons, Justice A M Thipsay of the Bombay High Court had virtually held that there was no evidence against these persons. They were granted bail after spending three years in jail.

While the NIA says that these are complex cases and need a lot of time for investigation, many others feel that the proofs are not coming by because the investigation or re-investigation into these cases started off as a witch hunt exercise for political reasons.

NIA sources say that there has been lack of cooperation from the local police who form the back bone of any investigation. Moreover these cases were investigated in a particular direction for many years and we got the job to un do the mess which has only made the job much harder. The basic piece of evidence is procured by any investigating agency from the spot where the incident took place. The accused were walking free for nearly four years before we could take over the probe and during this period a lot of evidence has gone missing.

The local police who were initially handling these cases say that the NIA has been pretty arrogant while handling these cases. They cannot look at the police personnel as accused in the case and treat them as one. Just because they are a centralised agency that does not mean we are subordinates and we too need to be treated properly.

However the basic understanding that one gets while looking at these developments is that the cases have been used more as political weapons. Ganesh Sovani who represents Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur in the Malegaon case says that this is a result of witch hunt. They have conducted arrests on the anticipation that these persons are accused in the case. It is nothing but an artificial investigation in furtherance to fix people for political needs. When the start of an investigation itself is such then the NIA is left with very little choice but to fabricate evidence. However it wont be too long before the cat is out of the bag because even the courts these days are very cautious while dealing with such cases.

The NIA has appeared desperate while handling these cases, says a senior police official. They are definitely under pressure to crack these cases. The agency was set up with a great deal of hype and we had all welcomed the formation of a central agency. However when goes through the Harshal Vasani case from Rajasthan it becomes clear that the NIA is desperate. Vasani had filed an affidavit stating that he was offered Rs 1 crore by the NIA to name a couple of senior RSS leaders in these attacks.

The news on the ground level too is not too good and it has become evident that the NIA has been getting no support from the local police. The tussle if clear as we speak to some of the police men who had initially handled these cases. They have a long list of complaints against the NIA. However what one gets to see is that it is a clear ego battle. What has emerged is unhealthy competition and this is hurting the probe. Many even point out that the NIA has been trying to undo their investigation. If they are trying to undo the investigation that means we are helping those who are trying to put us in bad light.

The NIA which says that the local police have not been helpful say that they get answers in yes or no and on some occasions have been told to refer to the earlier reports for their probe. A probe can never work on a yes or no and we need more details. Moreover what is the point in referring to earlier reports when they were wrong in the first place.

The other issue that the NIA faces is that most of the junior officers have often told them to speak to their seniors in the department. Now, in order to speak to higher ups there is a procedure that ought to be adhered to and this obviously takes up a lot of time. The other issue that they have found is the lack of support from the local intelligence wings. The local intelligence wing and the local police work in tandem and it appears as though they have ganged up against the NIA which again is hurting their cause no end.

The case status with regard to the above mentioned blasts is nothing to boast about for the NIA. There have been scores of arrests that have taken place, but the NIA is falling short at the crucial moment. There have been many conspiracy angles and also one must mention that some accused who had made sensational revelations have withdrawn their statements. All this put together is making the dots very hard to join.