In an application filed on Tuesday, 2008 Malegaon blast accused Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit has sought discharge from the sections of Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act applied against him. He has also sought the transfer of the case for trial before “the appropriate court of competent jurisdiction”.
The case is currently being tried before a special court in the Mumbai district city civil and sessions court. If the accused is discharged from the two Acts, the case will have to be tried before a regular sessions court in Nashik district. On September 30, 2008, an explosion in the textile town of Malegaon had killed six and injured 101.
Purohit’s plea has called the invocation of MCOCA by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad “clearly malafide to obtain prolonged custody of the accused” and to “force fabricated confessions”.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA), prosecuting the accused, including Purohit, in the case, had in its chargesheet filed in 2016 submitted that MCOCA cannot be imposed in the case. It had said that there was “considerable doubt” over the applicability of the Act by the ATS in 2008.
The Act is imposed in cases of organised crime syndicates, and requires two previous chargesheets against at least one accused within six months of the application of MCOCA. The ATS had cited two previous cases against Purohit’s co-accused Rakesh Dhawade in Jalna and Parbhani districts.
The NIA, however, had called the methods used by the ATS “questionable and dubious”.
“The accused states that the fact and circumstances revealed during investigation do not satisfy the ingredients of offence under MCOCA and UAPA. The ATS has portrayed Abhinav Bharat Trust as an organised crime syndicate… According to the ATS, offences registered at Parbhani and Jalna police stations were allegedly committed by members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The said organisation is a nationalist social organisation and cannot be termed an organised crime syndicate,” Purohit’s application states.
He further says that the Abhinav Bharat Trust was “not in existence” at the time of the two previous offences registered against Dhawade.
Purohit, who was a military intelligence officer, has also claimed that he had informed his superior “immediately after a meeting” with the Abhinav Bharat. Purohit has also relied on the deposition of witnesses in the Court of Inquiry conducted by the Ministry of Defence, claiming it proves he was “acting in due discharge” of his duties. He has further said that the ATS ‘deliberately bypassed’ seeking sanction as per rules to impose the UAPA.
Purohit, who has been in custody since 2008, has claimed discharge from charges including 3 (1) (i), 3 (2) and 3 (4) of the MCOCA and sections 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 23 of the UAPA. The court has directed the NIA to file its reply. The special court is currently at the stage of hearing arguments on the framing of charges.