The recent revelations made in the Army Court of Inquiry favouring Lt Colonel S P Purohit have put the National Investigating agency in a spot of bother with regard to its investigation into the involvement of right-wing terror groups in the Malegaon blasts case.
Lt Col Purohit's case took a turn when the Army's court of Inquiry suggested that he could have actually infiltrated the right-wing terror group Abhinav Bharat; that his job was to collect information on the activities of the group as a military intelligence official.
Although Lt Col Purohit will be tried separately once the NIA files its chargehseet against him in the case, for the time being it looks extremely difficult for the agency to put up a strong case against him.
The NIA, after taking over the cases in which right-wing groups are allegedly involved, has had a herculean task ahead of it due to various factors like collection of evidence and ego battles with local officers.
In Lt Col Purohit's case, the NIA has not even been able to secure the officer's custody for interrogation.
Lt Col Purohit had claimed that Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur was responsible for the Malegaon blasts. He had communicated this to his superiors three weeks prior to his arrest. He had also stated that a person by the name Sudhakar Chaturvedi was his informer.
However, Chaturvedi was also made an accused in the case.
The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad probed the Malegaon case for two years before handing it over to the NIA. Three years since then NIA has still not managed to question Lt Col Purohit in the case leave alone file a substantial chargesheet against him.
The NIA is relying very heavily on the evidence that has been collected by the ATS.
However a bare reading of the charges would only indicate that the NIA has a lot of work yet to be done.
The main evidence that the ATS had was the conversations that Lt Col Purohit had with some of the accused. However, in light of the court of inquiry revelations, it could well be termed as an interaction between an officer and his informants.
When a person is asked to infiltrate into an outfit then it is quite natural that he remains in contact with the persons associated with the group. While the ATS was unable to put forth a strong case based on these conversations, the NIA will have to literally burn the midnight oil before it could prove these charges.
The NIA will also need to prove that Lt Col Purohit was the main conspirator in the case.
The fact that he had been associated with the Abhinav Bharat will not be a good enough claim for the investigators. The officer already states that his association with this group is an ideological one.
Another accusation that the ATS made regarding funds being provided by Lt Col Purohit to the Abhinav Bharat is also something that has not been established yet.
The money leads up to the Abhinav Bharat, but from there it does not move and none of the agencies have so far been able to establish the money trail.
Further, the agencies are also struggling to establish the first charge that was made against Lt Col Purohit that he had smuggled 60 kg RDX for the blasts.
Once again, there's no trail.
Sources in the NIA, however, point out that there is no cause to be dejected.
Our duty is to probe the case and now thanks to these twists and turns it may take a while longer. This case too -- like the many cases that we are handling -- was probed in a different angle and later handed over to us. Our job was always going to be tough in the given scenario. Apart from watching the proceedings in the army court we will also need to question some officers in the ATS who were involved in this case, NIA sources point out.