Can there be two types of a Justice delivery system in the same country?

This question came to one’s mind with the U -turn taken by the NIA in the cases related to terror acts in which many Hindu names were involved. Now the NIA in a fresh charge sheet (May 13, 2016) has dropped the charges against Pragya Singh Thakur, has diluted the ones against Col Purohit and others. It is also being made out now that the late Hemant Karkare’s investigation in these cases was flawed and that it was the ATS which had got the RDX planted in Purohit’s residence to implicate him in this case. The implication is that all this was being done at the behest of the previous UPA Government.

A brief recap is in order. Maharashtra in particular and many other places in the country were witness to acts of terror. The first major attention to this phenomenon took place when two Bajrang Dal activists were killed while making the bombs in the house of one RSS worker Rajkondawar (May 2006). There was a saffron flag flying atop the house and a board of Bajrang Dal was put up in front of the house. At the site of bomb explosion fake moustaches, beard and pajama-Kurta were also found.

This was followed by many other blasts, Parbhani, Jalna, Thane, and Panvel etc. In most of these cases the police as is its first response often, held Muslims responsible for the such acts. After every blast few Muslims young men were arrested but who were later, after long grueling court cases,were released as no evidence was found against them.

The Malegaon blast in which Sadhvi’s role came to the surface, took place in 2008. In the blasts those returning from Namaz (prayers) were killed and many injured. Following this the usual suspects, Muslims, were arrested. Then while investigating the cases the Maharashtra ATS Chief Hemant Karkare found that the motorcycle used for the blast belonged to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, ex- ABVP worker. The trail of investigation led to Swami Dayanand Pande, Retd. Major Upadhyay, Ramji Klasnagra, Swami Aseemanand amongst others. They all belonged to the Hindu right wing. The evidence collected included a legally valid confession of Swami Aseemanand. This confession was made in judicial custody in presence of a Magistrate.

In the confession Swami spilled the beans and said that after the Sankat Mochan blast of 2002, they had decided that bombs will be replied by bombs. He was then looking after the VHP work in Dangs. He gave the detailed narrative of the whole process in which all the people were investigated and became part of the charge sheet of NIA.

When Karkare was investigating the case and many non-Muslim names started coming under a shadow, Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray wrote in Saamna that ‘we spit on the face of Karkare’. Narendra Modi, then CM of Gujarat, called him Deshdrohi (Anti National). Advani also reprimanded Karkare.

Feeling the heat of this pressure from Hindutva political outfits Karkare went to meet his professional peer Julio Rebeiro. Rebeiro. Rebeiro has a record of professional integrity. Rebeiro appreciated his painstaking work. Karkare asked that what should be the stand of a person like him when facing such heat from politicians. The senior officer told him to honestly do the work and ignore these insinuations.

Meanwhile the global terror phenomenon hit Mumbai. On 26/11 ten terrorists, armed to the teeth attacked Mumbai. Karkare was killed while in the field at this time. There is a strong controversy about this killing also. The then minority affairs Minister A. R. Antulay said that there is terrorism plus something else which is behind the killing of Karkare. PM Narendra Modi who had earlier called Karkare as Deshdrohi landed in Mumbai and wanted to give a cheque of Rs. one Crore to the officer’s widow. She refused to accept this.

After Karkare’s death the investigations continued on the lines laid down by him. The charge sheet was ready and all the involved were to be tried for acts of terror. Meanwhile the Government changed at the center and the NIA adopted the line which has led to the present situation where the efforts to release Sadhvi are moving with intimidating speed. The change in line was reflected in the statement of Public Prosecutor, Rohini Salian. She stated that she was told to go soft on these cases. As she refused to toe this, she was sacked.

One recalls that in Mumbai 92-93 violence over one thousand people died. This carnage was followed by the bomb blasts in which over two hundred people died. As far as the communal carnage is concerned not many got severe punishments, no death penalty- no life imprisonment. In the cases of bomb blasts many have been given death penalty and many more life imprisonment. One of the persons sentenced to life imprisonment is Rubina Memon. Her crime, she owned the car which was used to ferry the explosives. She did not drive the car with explosives.

Sadhvi owned the motorcycle used for Malegaon blasts; and yet this is not being seen as evidence enough to keep her in jail. Rubina owned the car; she will be in prison all her life.

So where does our democracy stand at the end of all this? It seems two type of justice delivery systems are out there now in the open. While shrill debates on TV will defend Sadhvi and blame Karkare for faulty investigation, the people in Malegaon are protesting furiously and planning to go to the court against the change in the stance of NIA. Two political parties seem to be preparing to save the honor of Karkare and press for sincere examination of the evidence collected by him.

One hopes the guilty will be punished and innocents will be protected. But this seems to be a tall order now.