Over ten years after a blast in Malegaon town near Nashik in Maharashtra killed six persons, a special court in Mumbai has said the accused, including Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit, will have to face trial under anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The special court on Saturday rejected an application filed by Purohit and arguments put forth by other accused that UAPA was not applicable in this case.
This means that Purohit and other accused — including Pragya Singh Thakur, Major (retd) Ramesh Upadhyay, Sameer Kulkarni, Ajay Rahirkar, Sudhakar Dwivedi and Sudhakar Chaturvedi — will face trial under relevant sections of UAPA invoked for terrorist act and conspiracy.
They will also face trial under sections of the Indian Penal Code, including murder, attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy, and sections of Explosive Substance Act. The advocates for the accused sought a stay on the order, seeking to appeal it before a higher court. While Special Judge V S Padalkar did not grant a stay, the matter has been posted next on October 26, till which time they can file an appeal before the court against the decision.
On September 29, 2008, a bomb allegedly planted on an LML Freedom motorcycle exploded in Malegaon, causing the death of six and injuring 101.
The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad made the first arrest — of Thakur — on October 23, 2008. The accused had argued that an amendment under UAPA came into effect on December 31, 2008. According to this amendment under Section 45 (2), to check the misuse of the stringent provisions of the UAPA, it was made mandatory for a sanctioning authority to make an independent review on whether the sections of UAPA can be applied in a particular case. The accused submitted that in the present case a sanction was granted on January 17, 2009, and that no independent review report is on record to show that the mandatory provision was adhered to. The accused state that prior to 2010, there was no such review authority appointed by the state government and hence sanction is not valid.
Special public prosecutor Avinash Rasal, representing the NIA, which took over the probe in the case from the ATS, submitted that when a supplementary chargesheet was filed, a report was submitted by the Director of Prosecution on April 18, 2011 as per the UAPA. Rasal also submitted that a sanction was then accorded by additional chief secretary (Home) on April 20, 2011.
The court in its order on Saturday held that both sanction orders — of 2009 and 2011 — were valid and their legality would be considered at the time of trial. The court said that opportunity needs to be given to the sanctioning authority to step into the witness box and depose on legality of the sanction. The court also said that no legal provisions are present in UAPA disallowing a second sanction to be taken in a case.