Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blast: Did NIA or CBI mess up the probe?

As Superintendent of police with the National Investigation Agency (NIA), IPS officer Pratibha Ambedkar -- based in Hyderabad then -- was vigorously pursuing the Mecca Masjid blast case.

Published: 17th April 2018 03:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th April 2018 08:03 AM   |  A+A-

(File Picture) A bomb disposal squad member defusing a bomb at Mecca masjid

Express News Service

HYDERABAD:  As Superintendent of police with the National Investigation Agency (NIA), IPS officer Pratibha Ambedkar -- based in Hyderabad then -- was vigorously pursuing the Mecca Masjid blast case. She had completed four of the five-year fixed tenure for officers who work on deputation with the NIA, and was looking forward to work in the anti-terror agency for one more year.

But one fine morning early this year, the IPS officer from Uttar Pradesh cadre got a message from NIA headquarters in New Delhi. She was informed that her services was needed in Uttar Pradesh and she was transferred out from NIA. While Mecca Masjid blast case was her prime focus, she was also heading the probe into other cases.

Prior to her abrupt transfer, when the accused in the case Swami Aseemanand and Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar alias Bharat Bhai were granted bail in March 2017, the NIA did not go in for an appeal in the matter -- raising many an eyebrow not only within NIA but also other agencies involved in anti-terror operations.

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The acquittal of five accused by an NIA court on Monday citing lack of evidence -- which led opposition parties to point fingers at the functioning of NIA and some even terming it a 'biased investigation' -- has ended up raising serious questions about the credibility of the anti-terror agency set up in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terror strikes.

The goings-on within NIA headquarters, especially with regard to the Mecca blast probe, indicates that all was not well within the agency over the last two years. But it is not only NIA, even the affairs in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which probed the case under the UPA regime, before the Hyderabad city police did its bit by picking up over 125 innocent Muslims -- indicates that all was not well from the day -- May 18, 2007 -- when the powerful bomb ripped through the historic mosque in the old city of Hyderabad.

Top sources disclosed to Express that it was not only the abrupt transfer of Pratibha Ambedkar, a young officer from UP, that raised several eyebrows within the agency, but the fact that the agency did not even go into an appeal against the bail of the accused became a talking point in NIA circles.

An abrupt transfer

Pratibha Ambedkar, who was pursuing the case, was transferred back to her home state before completing the 5-year fixed tenure for officers on deputation to the NIA, fuelling rumours. Prior to her abrupt transfer, when the accused in the case Swami Aseemanand and Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar were granted bail in March 2017, the NIA did not go in for an appeal in the matter -- raising many an eyebrow not only within NIA but also other agencies involved in anti-terror operations.

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