ATS: Half measures?
On July 29, 2006 the ATS sought permission from the district collector, Nanded, to file its charge sheet against 21 accused persons. To make such a plea the ATS must have been confident that it had sufficient evidence to prove that all 21 persons were party to the crime. But inexplicably, barely three weeks later it wrote to the additional chief secretary of Maharashtra, seeking sanction for the prosecution of only seven persons from its own list of 21 accused, dropping all charges against 11 others and seeking permission to bring forth evidence against the remaining two – Advocate Milind Ektate and the elusive Mithun Chakraborty – only one of whom was ultimately charged. (As mentioned earlier, a supplementary charge sheet added four more persons, including Ektate but not Chakraborty, to the list of accused.) Mithun Chakraborty was mysteriously excluded from the scope of further investigation even after the CBI took over the case. In fact, the CBI has not explored any leads on the training and finance provided to the terrorist network, leaving gaping holes in the bureau’s charge sheet.
The ATS, despite evidence gathered through investigations and supplemented by narco analysis test reports, was similarly reluctant to probe the role of institutions like the Bhonsala Military School in Nagpur or the Akanksha Resort in Sinhgad, Pune, in the possible training of terror groups.
"During the course of investigation, no sufficient evidence is found against the below-mentioned arrested accused persons hence they are discharged from the case vide Section 169 CrPC," said the ATS missive addressed to the additional chief secretary. The ATS then proceeded to file its charge sheet on August 24, 2006 along with a request to discharge 11 accused, absolving them of any links to the crime.
The accused persons whom the ATS wanted to discharge were: Vinod Venkatrao Mahalkar, Santosh Prakash Parlikar, Nimesh Sudhakar Limaye, Janardhan Yashwantrao Wakodikar, Santosh Keshavrao Wagh, Keshavrao P. Wagh, Jairam D. Tuptewar, Deviprasad Jairam Tuptewar, Raju Vithalrao Choudhary, Ravindra Ramrao Vidulkar and Mukul Ramesh Pande. From their names it appears that some of these men are relatives of some of the accused.
Was the ATS acting under political pressure, prompting it to make a U-turn at the last minute only to shield many of the accused?
The ATS had earlier charged all 21 accused with seven crimes, three of which related to the bomb blasts at Parbhani, Purna and Jalna. What stopped the ATS from booking them under the draconian Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) which the ATS freely applied in the 7/11 blasts, the Malegaon blasts and the Aurangabad RDX haul?
(CC agrees with other human rights activists and groups who argue that given the right professional orientation and training, the existing laws of the land are more than adequate for the police to deal with even the worst kinds of crime. Conferring greater powers on an inept, unprofessional and highly politicised police force through draconian laws like MCOCA will only result in the misuse of these powers even against innocent citizens. But given that an act like MCOCA does exist, why is it being selectively used? Do our investigating agencies also discriminate between "good terrorists" and "bad terrorists"?).
CBI: Operation Cover-up?
Considering the circumstances in which the CBI was brought into the picture, one would have expected the country’s premier investigating agency to conduct nothing less than a thorough, free, fair and transparent investigation so that the real culprits and masterminds of the crime could be identified, caught and punished. Instead, the CBI chose to function behind a veil of secrecy, refusing to brief the public at all about the investigations and thus raising suspicions about its unprofessional conduct.
Although the CBI submitted its charge sheet in the case more than five months ago, CC had to make repeated applications under the Right to Information Act before we were allowed to access the charge sheet and the accompanying records. And the reason why the authorities were so reluctant to part with these documents becomes evident from a perusal of the charge sheet. Far from rising to the occasion, the