A book based on 2008 Malegaon bomb blast case accused, Indian Army officer Colonel Prasad Purohit, has sparked a controversy ahead of its launch later this month with the lawyer of one of the victims claiming the work will lead to contempt of court. Shahid Nadeem, the lawyer, has sent an email to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) seeking “appropriate action for preventing the book launch” scheduled for December 18. Besides Nadeem, ex-army officer Major Ramesh Upadhyaya, a co-accused in the case, has also opposed the book launch even as the author claimed it was in no way causing violation of the court’s order. Smita Mishra said the book “Lt Colonel Purohit: The Man Betrayed?” was based on information that is already available in public domain and has nothing about the ongoing trial in the case.
Meanwhile, posters of the book launch event have gone viral on social media. As mentioned in the poster, the book will be launched at an event at SP College, Pune, at the hands of three former IPS officers – Jayant Umranikar, Satyapal Singh (BJP MP and former Union minister) and Sanjay Barve. Major (retired) Gaurav Arya will anchor the event. The book has been published by Renu Kaul Verma of Vitasta Publishing.
A bomb blast in Malegaon in Nashik on September 29, 2008 had left 10 persons dead and several others injured. Purohit, then a lieutenant colonel in the Army, was arrested by the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) for his alleged role in the terror attack. In January 2009, the ATS filed a chargesheet against 12 accused persons in this case. In 2011, the investigation of this case was handed over to the NIA. Of the 12 accused, five were discharged and charges were framed against seven others including Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Upadhyaya, who are currently out on bail. A special NIA court in Mumbai is conducting a trial in this case.
Advocate Nadeem, in an email written to NIA on December 6, said the proposed launch of the book will invite contempt of a trial court order passed by special judge V S Padalkar on October 1, 2019. Nadeem also attached the court order with his email which stated: “Media, Journalists, Correspondents, shall not conduct debate, interview, interaction, discussion of any kind on subject matter, to print/publish/display the same in any whatsoever matter till the end of the trial.”
Nadeem said the book launch event is an attempt to run a “parallel trial” to “create narratives” that Purohit has been falsely implicated by NIA and ATS. The lawyer said the trial is at fag end, witnesses are being examined on day to day basis and some of the important ones have deposed against Purohit. “Still, systemically, some forces are trying to shine his image at the cost of undermining the court and its order,” he said in the email to NIA.
Nadeem has requested the NIA to direct its special public prosecutor to move an application in trial court in this regard. He will also write to the Maharashtra police authorities about this matter, Nadeem said.
Meanwhile, Upadhyaya wrote on Twitter: “In utter violation of a specific NIA Court order, Malegaon accused Purohit manipulating visual & print media to lobby & build public opinion to put pressure & influence trial. Kindly stop it.” Upadhyay tagged NIA, Amit Shah’s office, Commissioner of Pune city police, Satyapal Singh and others in his post.
Speaking to The Indian Express, he said, “Court order has to be respected. One can speak about the incidents before the charge sheet was filed, like the harassment done to the accused persons. But this book is a violation of the NIA court order. It can be published after the trial is conducted.”
For her part, author Mishra, who is also a Prasar Bharati advisor, said, “My book does not cause any contempt of court because it just puts together inputs, political points and other material already available in the public domain on various platforms. There is not a word in this book about the ongoing trial. Those who are making allegations should read the book first. It seems they have been misled by someone or are doing this deliberately. I am a law abiding citizen….”