Even as the special NIA court dropped the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act against the accused in the Malegaon 2008 bomb blast case, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) officers, who were part of the investigation before the case was handed over to the NIA, told The Indian Express that Wednesday’s decision is a vindication of their probe.
“The fact that the court did not exonerate Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur despite the NIA giving her a clean chit is a validation of our probe. We are completely sure that Sadhvi Thakur was a mastermind and the court also saw merit in our case and will try her under certain sections of UAPA relating to terror,” said an officer who was part of the investigating team.
Stating that the investigation of the 2008 Malegaon blast was filled with “lacunae”, the NIA in May 2016, filed a chargesheet against ten accused while stating there is no case made out against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and five others.
The chargesheet has not only said there is “considerable doubt” on applicability of MCOCA, but it has also called the methods used by the Maharashtra ATS “questionable” and “dubious”. It also said a CBI investigation has found ATS men linked to the disappearance of a key witness. In demolishing the ATS case, the NIA relied on key new witness statements.
A re-examination of three of the accused — Ramesh Upadhyay, Sameer Kulkarni and Sudhakar Dwivedi — by the NIA revealed that one witness, who the ATS said was present at a conspiracy meeting in Bhopal in April 2008, was not in attendance according to the three. The NIA claimed this led them to recall the witness for re-examining.
According to the ATS, it was at this meeting in Bhopal that Prasad Purohit discussed revenge on Muslims by carrying out blasts in Muslim-populated areas such as Malegaon.
A new NIA witness claimed that he saw an assistant police inspector of the Maharashtra ATS “suspiciously” in the house of Sudhakar Chaturvedi. “When I entered the room, I saw API Shri Bagade was alone and doing something. On seeing me, he immediately came out and pleaded to me that I should not inform about the incident to anyone.”
The NIA chargesheet has said that recovery of RDX from Chaturvedi’s house hence becomes suspicious.
The NIA had chargesheeted ten people, including Lt Col Prasad Purohit, Major (retired) Ramesh Upadhyaya, Sameer Kulkarni, Ajay Rahirkar, Jagdish Mhatre, Rakesh Dhawde, Sudhakar Dwivedi, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, absconding accused Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Indian Penal Code, and the Explosives Substances Act.
The two who the NIA had arrested but did not charge are Lokesh Sharma and Dhan Singh. The four who were booked by the ATS but the NIA has found no evidence against include Thakur, Shivnarayan Kalsangra, Shyam Sahu and Praveen Takkalki. firstname.lastname@example.org