THE SUPREME Court on Monday granted bail to Lt Col Shrikant Purohit, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, observing that there were contradictions in the chargesheets filed by the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) and the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The court said his “right to bail” cannot be denied merely because the “sentiments of the community” were “against” him.
“Keeping in view the fact that NIA has submitted the supplementary chargesheet which is at variance with the chargesheet filed by the ATS, and that the trial is likely to take a long time and the appellant has been in prison for about eight years and eight months, we are of the considered view that the appellant has made out a prima facie case for release on bail and we deem it appropriate to enlarge the appellant herein on bail,” said a bench of Justices R K Agrawal and A M Sapre.
“At the stage of granting bail, a detailed examination of evidence and elaborate documentation of the merits of the case has not to be undertaken. The grant or denial (of bail) is regulated, to a large extent, by the facts and circumstances of each particular case. But at the same time, right to bail is not to be denied merely because of the sentiments of the community against the accused,” it added.
“Liberty of a citizen is undoubtedly important, but this is to balance with the security of the community. A balance is required to be maintained between the personal liberty of the accused and the investigational rights of the agency. It must result in minimum interference with the personal liberty of the accused and the right of the agency to investigate the case,” said the court.
On the contradictions between the NIA and ATS chargesheets, the bench said these are “to be tested at the time of trial and this court cannot pick or choose one version over the other”.
The case dates back to September 29, 2008, when six people were killed in a bomb blast at Malegaon. Purohit was arrested in November 2008.
Though the NIA had opposed the bail plea, the supplementary chargesheet filed by the agency mentioned that the recovery of RDX from the house of an accused, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, was suspect as there were doubts that it could have been planted by the ATS.
Senior Counsel Harish Salve had pointed out to the court that ATS Assistant Police Inspector Bagde was found in Chaturvedi’s house on November 2, 2008, when the latter was not at home. Taking this into account, the court said: “It is also pertinent to mention here that the ATS conducted a search of the house of Accused-11 (Chaturvedi) on November 25, 2008. wherefrom they had taken the swab of RDX which creates a doubt on the recovery of RDX.”
During the hearing, the court had wondered if anything remained of the charges against Purohit if there were doubts regarding his role in the supply of RDX.
On the ATS claim that he had floated the Hindu outfit, Abhinav Bharat, which is alleged to be behind the Malegaon blast, Purohit, who was with the Army Intelligence, contended that it was a “covert operation” to infiltrate the group and that he had passed on information to his superior officers.
The court asked Purohit to furnish a personal security of Rs 1 lakh, two additional sureties of the same amount, and surrender his passport before being released on bail.
The court also told him that he should make himself available for the investigation, as and when required by the NIA, and should “not, directly or indirectly, make any inducement, threat or promise to any person acquainted with the facts of the case so as to dissuade that person from disclosing such facts to the court or to the investigating agency or to any police officer”.
In April, the Bombay High Court granted bail to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, another accused in the case. The high court had rejected Purohit’s bail plea.