On Wednesday, following an 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.
The division bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik was informed by Purohit’s lawyer, Advocate Neela Gokhale 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. He 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 the 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.
Earlier on 6th January 2021, relatives of the six deceased in the bomb blasts case had reportedly 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.
Further, they cited 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 while urging Rohatgi to not appear for any accused in the matter.
The bench has listed the case for further hearing to February 2.