“It is not overnight that 40 witnesses have changed their statements. This has been happening for years, and we have been pointing this out. In fact, the prime witness petitioned to the National Human Rights Commission four years ago that he was being tortured by the agency,” claimed advocate Shrikant Shivade, who represents Lt Col Shrikant Purohit. Recently, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) said that Purohit was not linked to the Samjhauta Express blast, and that the agency would look into his alleged role in the Malegaon blasts. He has, in turn, sought immediate release from prison as the agency has not completed the probe even seven years after his imprisonment.
“The way he was arrested, the way the RDX was planted, was all a hoax. Imagine, can an Army officer carry 60 kilograms of RDX from one posting to another? Does the Army even use RDX?” Shivade asked. In a telephonic interview with The Sunday Guardian from Pune, he said it was a shame that a devoted Army man with an “outstanding career and impeccable record” was being kept behind the bars for seven years.
“He has no criminal antecedents. He is an outstanding soldier. He fought against terror, infiltrated the ISI. His intelligence work has been much appreciated by his seniors. He was part of the team that protected then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. During his duty, he provided cover to Amarnath pilgrims. He has received 16 wound medals,” Shivade said.
When asked about Special Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian’s claim to the media a few months ago that she was asked by the NIA to go slow on the “saffron terror” brigade, he dismissed her statement: “That was only to create doubt—an attempt to subvert a fair trial.”
Talking about Purohit’s track record, he said that the officer had played a pivotal role in the seizure of arms and catching foreign terrorists during his posting in Uri. “It was there, during an operation, that he fell and broke both his knees. But instead of opting out of the service, he chose to serve in Military Intelligence and provide inputs,” Shivade said. Purohit had to undergo knee reconstruction surgery after the accident.
Both Shivade and Purohit’s wife Aparna have claimed that the ATS tortured him and broke the same knees during interrogation of the Malegaon 2008 case. “They (ATS) even opposed our application to get him treated at the military hospital after that,” Shivade said.
Seven years after arrest, his many bail applications have been rejected by the courts. He has been accused of being an active member of Abhinav Bharat. He has also been charged of training and funding Hindu extremist groups. Now the trial court here wants to hear charges in the case. Special Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian’s interview a few months ago had caused public outrage after she had claimed that the NIA asked her to go slow on the Malegaon 2008 accused. The NIA has denied this on affidavit in court.
The trial court recently rejected Purohit’s application seeking to hold the trial until the NIA submits a charge sheet or a report before a court. “The trial court now wants to hear charges on the basis of a charge sheet filed by the ATS. If it had to go ahead with the ATS charge sheet, why did it wait for seven long years for NIA to investigate the matter? Now that such a long time has gone by, it is our right to know what the NIA has investigated. So we had sought that the court should hold the trial until the NIA submits its report. This application was rejected. So we have moved the Supreme Court. The Apex Court will hear the matter on 6 May,” Shivade said.