Mumbai: Following the objection raised by the relatives of victims in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi did not appear for accused Lt Colonel Prasad Purohit before the Bombay High Court on Wednesday.
The relatives of the six deceased in the bomb blasts case sent an email to Rohatgi pointing out that he had earlier appeared for the National Investigating Agency in the case before the Supreme Court in 2015 while he was the Attorney General for India.
They also said that the NIA had in 2016 asked the Law Ministry to seek Rohatgi’s legal opinion(in his capacity as the AG) regarding the applicability of the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crimes Act against Purohit.
“Under these circumstances we are of the opinion that your appearance on behalf of the accused no. 9(Purohit) will be in conflict of interest and will create prejudice to the whole proceedings”,said the letter sent by Nissar Sayed Bilal, Sugra Bi Haroon Shah, Noorjahan Sheikh Rafeeque, Shaikh Eshak Sheik Yusuf, Ainoor Bi Ziyanullah Khan and Shaikliyakat Shaik Mohiyuddin.
“In order to preserve the value of fair trial and uphold the sanctity of the position that you once held as Attorney General of India, we request you to not appear for the accused no.9. Your appearance for the petitioner against the National Investigating Agency appears to be in bad taste and creates suspicion in the whole process of prosecution”, the letter added.
The relatives therefore urged Rohatgi to not to appear for any accused in the matter.
Pursuant to this letter, Rohatgi did not appear for Purohit before the Bombay High Court. Purohit’s lawyer, Advocate Neela Gokhale informed the division bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik about the letter sent to Rohatgi, who had appeared in the previous hearings.
Purohit has approached the High Court challenging his prosecution in the case arguing that the NIA did not obtain the sanction of the Central Government as prescribed by Section 197(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
In his plea, Purohit contended that he had attended ‘Abhinav Bharat’ meetings before the blast in the discharge of his duties for the Military Intelligence unit. Advocate Gokhale submitted that this meeting was projected by the NIA as a conspiracy for the blasts. Since the attendance in the meeting was while acting in discharge of official duties as an army officer, sanction under Section 197(2) was necessary, Gokhale argued.
Purohit was also reinstated in the Army in 2017, after spending nine years in jail and the MCOCA charges against him were dropped by the NIA, Gokhale submitted.
The bench has listed the case for further hearing to February 2.
The relatives of the victims have sought to intervene in Purhoti’s petition. Senior Adv B A Desai (former Additional Solicitor General of India) along with Adv Sharif Shaikh, Adv Shahid Nadeem, Adv Kritika Agarwal, Adv Hetali Sheth are representing them.