IN ITS order rejecting the bail plea of Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit last week, the special NIA court has stated that it is difficult to accept his contention that he was just ‘discharging his duty’ and had no connection with the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast at this stage.
Purohit has claimed he had participated in meetings – where, the ATS alleged, the conspiracy to carry out the blast had taken place – as a military intelligence officer “to collect intelligence and create new sources”.
In its detailed order, the court has stated that an opportunity should be given to the accused “to lead evidence during the course of the trial” to conclude whether his activities were part of his official duty.
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“The presence of the applicant in the Faridabad meeting or formation of Abhinav Bharat by him may be a part of his official act as submitted by him. Still it has to be seen whether the act complained of against him can be separated from discharge of his official duty… It can be done only during the course of trial after giving opportunity of leading full evidence to the prosecution as well as applicant,” special Judge SD Tekale has said.
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Court of Inquiry and Ministry of Defence documents
While arguing for bail, Purohit had for the first time been allowed by the court to refer to documents from the record of the Court of Inquiry carried out by the Army after his arrest. He also referred to certain documents by the Ministry of Defence. On the allegation against him that he had procured RDX from his posting in Jammu and Kashmir, Purohit had claimed to rely on documents submitted by the defence ministry stating it is ‘highly impossible’ for anyone to bring RDX from there. He also contended that the documents showed he was “working as part of the intelligence unit and was not capable of carrying out an operation on his own and that the intelligence unit did not have access to any explosive.”
The prosecution, however, objected to him referring to the documents, which are not part of the chargesheet, stating that the documents cannot be referred to at this stage. The court accepted this contention. “It will (be) appropriate to mention that the question of involvement of applicant in the Malegaon bomb blast was not the subject matter of the Court of Inquiry conducted by the Army (sic),” the judge observed.
One of the allegations used by the prosecution against Purohit is an alleged conversation between him and co-accused Ramesh Upadhyay, which happened after newspaper reports reported Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur’s arrest in the case. “The conversation shows that applicant was under tension due to these facts and had decided to take certain precautions i.e. to exclude himself from the other members of Abhinav Bharat by instructing them not to contact him. If really, as contended by the applicant, he was discharging his duty and had no concern with this crime, then certainly in natural course of conduct, there would have been no reaction as emerges from the above telephonic conversation (sic),” the court has observed.
Referring to this allegation, Purohit had, in his bail plea, said he was “trying to take precaution so as to guard the role of military intelligence…” The court questioned that if Purohit had the knowledge that he would be arrested after his name emerged in the case, then why “had he not taken protection from his superiors? (sic)”
On ATS officer’s role
As per a witness statement – which is part of the NIA supplementary chargesheet filed in May this year — it has been alleged that an ATS officer, API Bagade, had illegally entered the house of accused Sudhakar Chaturvedi, where traces of RDX were alleged to have been found by the ATS. The court has observed that while the witness, a former army official, has stated to have seen Bagade entering Chaturvedi’s house before the NIA, he had not said anything of such sort on being examined by the ATS thrice between 2008 and 2011. The court has observed that in his new statement, nowhere has the witness claimed that he had stated the fact to the ATS between 2008 and 2011 and the ATS had intentionally not recorded it.
“It is pertinent to note that the investigating officer of the NIA has made serious allegation against API Bagade about planting of RDX. He has not recorded statement of API Bagade. Anyhow, in view of all above discussion, in absence of any opportunity to API Bagade at this prima facie stage, it cannot be said that RDX was planted by ATS officer. Certainly it requires full-fledged trial to come to any specific conclusion (sic),” the court observed.
In his bail plea, when Purohit claimed there is no possibility of him absconding if given bail since he would have to report back to the Army immediately, the court talked of his “excellent service record” but denied bail on other grounds.