Free NIA. It's become a 'caged parrot' like CBI

Kumar Shakti Shekhar
Kumar Shakti ShekharApr 22, 2016 | 17:31

Free NIA. It's become a 'caged parrot' like CBI

If CBI was once known as the "caged parrot" of the ruling dispensation, today it is the National Investigation Agency. The NIA, which is the central counter-terrorism law enforcement organisation, has now been going slow over and giving clean chits to the so-called "saffron/Hindu terrorists" who once were accused of carrying out blasts in Malegaon and Samjhauta blast cases.

The term "caged parrot" caught on during the coal block allocation scam in May 2013, when the Supreme Court called CBI precisely that - for sharing its draft report with the then Union law minister Ashwani Kumar and officials in the coal ministry and the PMO, and changing it at their behest. This irked the apex court, which, raising questions over the CBI's independence, called it a "caged parrot speaking in its master's voice". "The heart of the report was changed on suggestions of government officials," the court had said.


NIA, which has a penchant for taking dictations from the ruling dispensation at the Centre, has long served its erstwhile master in the Congress-led UPA. However, now with the BJP at the helm, the NIA seems be dancing to the tunes of the NDA government making volte faces in terror cases.

Here are four reasons why:

1. Volte face on Lt Col Purohit

Contradicting ATS Mumbai's stance, the NIA has recently said that Lt Col Prasad Srikant Purohit was never an accused in the Samjhauta blast case. "There is no proof against him in Samjhauta blast case. He was never an accused. I wonder why his name is being linked to it," NIA director general Sharad Kumar said earlier this week. The NIA DG, however, added that Purohit has been chargesheeted by ATS Mumbai in Malegaon blasts in 2008, and the NIA was carrying out further investigations in the matter.

Union minister of state for home, Kiren Rijiju, while reacting to the NIA's "clean chit" to Lt Col Purohit said on April 20, "The manner in which the Congress-led UPA government pressurised officers to get things done is not good. They should have not done it".


Asked whether he meant that officials were forced to cook up charges in the Samjhauta blast and Malegaon cases, Rijiju said, "Such things happened during the Congress' regime, but there is no need to go into the depth of the case and disclose it; there are many issues which are sub judice and will come before you soon. But our government will not pressurise anyone; whatever happens will happen but according to rules... It has become clear from Home Minister Rajnath Singh's statement in Parliament and what we have seen in the home ministry that the previous government, especially former home minister P Chidambaram, used position (power) in a very wrong manner."

2. Inordinate delay in prosecuting 'Hindu/saffron' terrorists

It has been five years since the NIA took over investigation in 2011 of the Malegaon blasts but is yet to file a chargesheet. This has led Lt Col Purohit to petition the Supreme Court pleading that the NIA was still struggling to file its final report. Moreover, the NIA is yet to decide whether to drop the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against the accused.

Lt Col Purohit, who has been languishing in jail for about seven years after the 2008 Malegaon blasts that killed six people and wounded more than 100, pleaded that the NIA's delay should be a ground for his release. The Mumbai ATS' chargesheet under MCOCA made it difficult for Purohit and fellow accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and nine others to get bail. The Supreme Court has asked the trial court to consider the bail applications of the accused without referring to the special law. But the has NIA failed to place the status of its investigation before the trial court.


The jailed Army officer has also written to defence minister Manohar Parrikar claiming innocence and has asked restoration of his military honour, reiterating that he was wrongly framed in the case. He maintains that he was framed in the Samjhauta blast case after a team of NIA rushed to the US to probe the role of Lashkar-e-Taiba in the case.

NIA officials examining a blast spot.

3. NIA still seeks more time to file chargesheet even after seven years

Despite "favourable" governments at the Centre (Congress-led UPA) and in Maharashtra (Congress-NCP coalition), the NIA failed to file chargesheet and start trial in the Malegaon blast case. It is a pointer to the alleged motivated campaign against the so-called "Hindu/saffron terrorists" by the previous Congress governments. Now, the NIA has sought more time to do file chargesheet, making a mockery of itself.

On April 20, it asked for more time from a Mumbai court to file a charge sheet in the 2008 case involving members of Abhinav Bharat. This has obviously raised questions over the independence and efficiency of the agency.

Now, when the NDA has come to power, there have been allegations that the NIA has been asked to go slow in the terror cases involving extreme rightwing organisations. Former special public prosecutor Rohini Salian had also alleged that she was instructed by the NIA to take it easy in this case, thus, making the probing agency's position quite unenviable.

4. U-turn on Muslim accused

In a major volte face, the NIA last week protested the discharge of nine Muslims accused in the 2006 Malegaon blast case. Changing its earlier position in the case, it told a sessions court that the discharge of these nine men "cannot be allowed".

Earlier, the NIA had disagreed with the reports of the Maharashtra ATS and the CBI into the blast that killed at least 37 people on September 8, 2006. On August 29, 2013, eight of the nine accused filed a discharge application before the court. The NIA contested the claims of the ATS and the CBI.

"It is submitted that the evidence collected by NIA in further investigation is not in consonance with the evidence collected earlier by ATS and CBI. No evidence was found in support of the conclusion drawn in final report filed by ATS and supplementary final report submitted by the CBI recommending prosecution of the nine accused," the NIA had said then vis-a-vis the nine accused, whom it now wants behind bars.

5. Witnesses suddenly turning hostile

Witnesses have started turning hostile in the Samjahuta blast case after the Modi government came to power. According to a report in The Times of India, about 40 witnesses have turned hostile in the trials in the Ajmer Dargah blast of October 2007 and the Samjhauta Express blast of February 2007 alone. Many more are likely to repeat it. Several witnesses, whose statements strengthened the case of the NIA in Malegaon blasts of 2006 and 2008, and Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid, wanted to overturn their earlier testimonies.

As a result, the NIA is being forced to record fresh statements of witnesses. For instance, two witnesses have backtracked in the Malegaon blasts of 2008. Dr RN Singh and Yashpal Bhadana are believed to have given clean chit to Lt Col Shrikant Purohit.

6. NIA not to oppose Swami Aseemanand's bail plea

The NIA is unlikely to also oppose the conditional bail granted to Swami Aseemanand, who was chargesheeted in the Samjhauta blast case, as it did not find any grounds for it. Minister of state for home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said Swami Aseemanand continued to remain in jail as he "could not comply with the conditions of bail specified" in the order of Punjab and Haryana High Court last August. "The NIA examined the feasibility of filing a Special Leave Petition and decided that there were no grounds to challenge the order in Supreme Court," Chaudhary said. The certified copy of the order was issued by the apex court on May 1, 2015.

Last updated: April 25, 2016 | 14:30
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