Mumbai: The special public prosecutor in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blasts case which involves some Hindu fundamentalists, including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, on Thursday alleged that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) wanted her to "go soft" on the accused since the new BJP government came to power last year.
"An NIA officer called last year and asked to meet me. He wanted me to go soft on the accused in the case," Rohini Salian told media persons here.
The 68-year-old criminal law expert said she suspected that the officer -- whom she declined to identify -- was apparently acting under instructions from the NIA higher officials in conveying this to her.
"The same officer met me again on June 12 and conveyed orally that I would be replaced by some other lawyer in this case. I asked him to settle my bill and denotify me as the prosecutor in the case. Till date, however, no notification has been issued replacing me with some other lawyer nor my bills are settled," said Salian, who commands a lengthy experience as a police prosecutor.
She also spoke of a dispute over her fees with the NIA which was only ready to pay her at par with the Central Bureau of Investigation prosecutors, while Salian, who had appeared for NIA in two cases in the past, demanded she should be paid more.
Asked what her next step would be if she was dropped by NIA from the case, Salian shot back that she would take up other cases, including defending the accused in other NIA cases.
The September 29, 2008 Malegaon blasts in which seven were killed and another 80 were injured, was the first major case in which the involvement of right-wing Hindu extremists came to the fore after investigations by then Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare, who was killed in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks by Pakistani terrorists.
Initially, the needle of suspicion was cast on minority community members, but after Karkare's probe, 12 people including Sadhvi Pragya, Col. P.S. Purohit (retd) and Major Ramesh Upadhyay, Shyam Sahu, S. N. Kalsangra, Sameer Kulkarni, and Dayanand Pandey were arrested.
The case was investigated by the local police followed by the ATS and CBI, the NIA took it over in 2011 after which three more accused were nabbed.
Salian, who hails from Karnataka, has earlier worked as chief public prosecutor in Mumbai for over five years.