The Bombay High Court granted bail Tuesday to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, a key accused in the 2008 bomb blast in Malegaon in which six persons were killed and over 100 injured.
The High Court, however, rejected the bail of another accused in the case, former Lt Colonel Prasad Purohit, saying the accusations against Purohit seem “prima facie true”. Purohit was arrested in November 2008 for allegedly procuring RDX for the blast — the bomb was strapped to a motorcycle — and hatching a conspiracy.
Thakur was granted bail on a surety bond of Rs 5 lakh. She was directed to deposit her passport in the NIA court.
A division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Dr Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi granted bail to Thakur in the absence of “incriminating or objectionable material” against her.
“It cannot be said there are reasonable grounds for believing that accusation made against her are prima facie true. Once it is held so, then the benefit of bail cannot be withheld to the appellant, even if the offences alleged against her by ATS are grave and serious,” the bench said.
The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had accused Thakur of lending her motorcycle for use in the bomb blast and for participating in conspiracy meetings.
The counsel for an intervener in the matter, B A Desai, sought a stay on bail for Thakur but it was rejected by the High Court. Meanwhile, sources in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) said it is unlikely to challenge Thakur’s bail.
The NIA, which had taken over the probe from the ATS, had earlier informed the High Court it had no objection to Thakur being granted bail since there existed no evidence against her.
The agency, however, challenged Purohit’s bail application, stating there was prima facie evidence of audio and video recordings, call detail records and witness statements to suggest Purohit played a major role in conspiring and executing the blast.
In two separate judgments, the court did not consider MCOCA while considering the bail applications.
The High Court, while rejecting bail for Purohit, said accusations made against Purohit seem “prima facie true… this appears to be the reason why National Investigation Agency has also not given a ‘clean-chit’ to him, though it has done so in respect of some of the other co-accused”.
Thakur and Purohit had approached the High Court after their bail pleas were rejected by the NIA court in September 2016. The NIA had dropped MCOCA charges against Purohit and all charges against Thakur in its supplementary chargesheet in May 2016. The trial court is presently hearing arguments on framing of charges in the 2008 case.
The High Court, while considering the bail applications of both accused, took into consideration reports filed by ATS and the NIA.
“The court has to consider and read conjointly, both, the earlier report (ATS) and also the subsequent report (NIA),” the court noted while ruling on the Purohit bail plea.
Thakur’s lawyer Avinash Gupta had earlier informed the court that she was not in possession of the motorcycle in which the bomb was planted as she had sold it to an absconding accused, Ramji Kalsangra, two years before the blast. Gupta argued that some witnesses who had given statements against Thakur before the ATS had retracted their statements.
“Statements of four witnesses do show that the appellant was not in possession of the said motorcycle since much prior to the incident,” the court said.
Purohit’s counsel Shrikant Shivde argued that his client should be let out on bail given his prolonged detention. “Mere delay in the trial cannot be a ground for releasing the appellant on bail,” he said.
Bhagwan Jha, brother-in-law of Thakur, said she is yet to be informed about the bail. “She is lodged in a hospital in Madhya Pradesh. She has been in a puja since morning and is yet to be informed about her bail,” Jha said.
He said Thakur has already been acquitted in the Sunil Joshi murder case and will walk out once bail formalities are over. “Her main priority will be her health. Her health deteriorated in custody,” he said.