Rohini Salian names NIA officer who told her to ‘go soft’ against Malegaon blasts accused - Is this an example of the subversion of justice by constitutionally appointed authorities?

Former Special Prosecutor Rohini Salian has disclosed that it was Suhas Warke, a Superintendent of Police in the National Investigation Agency (NIA), who asked her to “go soft” against the accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case after the NDA came to power. 

More than three months after Salian’s interview to The Indian Express, the first disclosure on the name of the agency officer has been made in an affidavit she filed in a matter relating to initiation of contempt proceedings against NIA for “tending to hamper the judicial process,” resulting in “weakening of the prosecution’s case”. “I am told that a criminal contempt petition is filed before this Honb’le court and in administration of justice and as an officer of the court, I am disclosing the name of the NIA officer, who had tried to interfere with the delivery of the administration of justice, as a messenger. His name is Suhas Warke, SP, NIA, Mumbai branch,” Salian said in her affidavit.

The affidavit, which was filed before the Bombay High Court, has now been submitted in the Supreme Court along with a petition asking it to pay heed to revelations made in the affidavit and issue appropriate orders against the NIA in the interest of justice. In the affidavit, Salian has referred to her interview to The Indian Express, published on June 25. “I reiterate and affirm that whatever I have stated in my interview to the newspaper Indian Express… is true and correct and I reiterate the same as it is specifically stated therein,” she said, adding that the incident happened in the second or third week of June 2014. In the interview, Salian had said that she was under pressure from the NIA to “go soft” in the case.

Soon after the NDA government came to power last year, she said she got a call from one of the officers of the NIA — the agency is investigating terror cases involving alleged Hindu extremists — asking to come over to speak with her. “He didn’t want to talk over the phone. He came and said to me that there is a message that I should go soft,” Salian had told The Indian Express. She was subsequently de-notified by the NIA from its panel of lawyers but the Home Ministry is still to take a final call on her removal. But she had not disclosed the name of the NIA officer.

Salian’s affidavit has been submitted in the Supreme Court by Mumbai resident Dr Sanjay Lakhe Patil who had filed a petition in the High Court seeking contempt action against the NIA. However, the plea, filed through advocate Chirag M Shroff, complained that the High Court is yet to take cognisance of the matter, and that it is getting deferred. Patil has sought the court’s permission to be heard in the matter pending already before the top court in which notices have been issued to the NIA and Maharashtra government. Acting on two PILs, a bench led by Justice J Chelameswar had sought replies from them.

In its response, NIA said Salian “falsely” alleged that she had been asked to “go soft”, and termed the accusations as “unwarranted and baseless”. Confirming that she had filed the affidavit naming the NIA officer, Salian told The Indian Express Monday that she had done so because this had been asked of her by the then Chief Justice of the High Court — Chief Justice Mohit Shah retired last month. “I got a call from the counsel representing Patil who had apparently filed the contempt of court petition and he said that the Chief Justice had asked me if I could name the NIA man. I felt I could not say no to the Chief Justice. Hence, I wrote the name in the notarised affidavit and gave it to him in a sealed envelope,” Salian said. She said she had no intention of making the name public as she considered him merely a messenger.

The Malegaon blast on September 29, 2008 claimed four lives and injured 79 while another blast at the same time in Modasa in Gujarat killed one. Investigations in the case pointed to alleged Hindu extremists based in Indore, as first reported by The Indian Express on October 23, 2010. Of 14 arrested accused persons, four were granted bail between 2011 and 2013 when Salian led the NIA’s case in the Bombay High Court. 

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