The Supreme Court on Monday granted bail to Lt. Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit, one of the key accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case. He has been in jail for the last nine years. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had opposed his bail in the last hearing, saying there was enough evidence of Purohit’s role in the blast in which seven people were killed.
The apex court had last week reserved its decision on an interim bail plea filed by Purohit. His bail plea was earlier rejected by the Bombay High Court following which he approached the highest court. The Supreme Court bench comprising Justice R K Agrawal and A M Sapre, while granting bail, said, “We set aside order of Bombay High Court.”
During the hearing, Lt Col Purohit, who is being represented by senior lawyer Harish Salve, had said he had been caught in a “political crossfire” and languishing in jail for nine years without even charges being framed against him. Purohit accepted he had attended meetings of Abhinav Bharat, a right-wing organisation whose members were accused of conspiring in the Malegaon blast, but he had acted as an army officer and passed on the information to his senior officers about the group’s activities.
“Since 2001, he has got numerous recommendations for infiltration. From an unsung hero, he has been now called an incarcerated hero,” Salve had said while arguing that Purohit has been falsely implicated by the Maharashtra Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) and no report has been filed even after eight years of the Army’s Court of Inquiry.
Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for NIA, said that although it has been found that Purohit had informed his seniors about the activities of Abhinav Bharat, there were some materials against him that could justify framing of charges against him.
Seven people were killed in a bomb blast on September 29, 2008, at Malegaon, a communally-sensitive town in Nasik district of Maharashtra. A special MCOCA court had earlier ruled that the ATS had wrongly applied this law against Purohit and ten others. The 4,000-page charge sheet had alleged that Malegaon was selected as the target because of a sizeable Muslim population in the town.
The charge sheet had named Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, Lt Col Purohit and co-accused, Swami Dayanand Pandey as the key conspirators. However, Thakur given clean chit by the NIA last year. It had alleged that it was Pandey who had instructed Purohit to arrange explosive RDX, while Thakur owned the motorcycle which was used in the blast.
The probe was handed over to the NIA in 2011 along with a several other blast cases involving right-wing extremists, including the 2007 Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Dargah bombings.
Reacting to the development, ANI quoted former ATS chief KP Raghuvanshi as saying: “Will comment after detailed order, but I stand by initial investigation which we had done.”