In a big relief to Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Lt Colonel Purohit, a special NIA court on Wednesday dropped MCOCA charges against them in the 2008 Malegaon blast case. Both, however, will be tried under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Seven people were killed and nearly 100 others injured when a bomb strapped to a motorcycle had exploded in Malegaon town of Nashik district on September 29, 2008. Sadhvi Pragya, 44, was arrested in October that year and Purohit, 44, the next month and both were charged with plotting the blasts as part of what the prosecution said was a plan by Hindu right wing group Abhinav Bharat.
Following is a brief timeline on the Malegaon case:
September 29, 2008: A bomb placed on a motorcycle went off in a crowded market square in Malegaon, killing seven and injuring 79.
November 4, 2008: Lt Colonel Shrikant Purhoit, a serving Army officer, is arrested for his involvement in the blasts. Subsequently the investigation by Maharashtra ATS revealed that several of the accused may have been involved in other attacks such as the Modasa blast in Gujarat, the Malegaon blast of 2006, the Mecca Masjid Blast in Hyderabad in 2007 and the 2007 Samjhauta Express blast. The matter soon took a political turn with the BJP and the Shiv Sena alleging the ATS of harbouring political motives behind the arrests and the Congress for using the ATS for political gains.
January 20, 2009: 14 chargesheeted by Maharashtra ATS on January 20, 2009. Sadhvi Pragya, Lt Colonel Shrikant Purohit were named the key conspirator in the case. Further investigation suggested the involvement of the Hindu extremist group Abhinav Bharat.
July 31, 2009: The special court trying the case dropped the MCOCA charges against all the 11 accused in the case, including Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Lt Col Prasad Purohit, on that ground that when the chargesheet was filed for Malegaon blast 2008, the cognisance of the accused was not taken in the other cases.
July 19, 2010: In 2010, the Bombay High Court reinstates MCOCA charges against the 11 accused. “As is the settled legal position, cognisance is taken of an offence and not of an offender. Hence, the leaned special judge was not right in holding that the competent court was required to take cognisance of offences against respondent 7 (Dhawad),” it ruled.
2010: Initially, Muslims were seen as suspects in the case but it was under Hemant Karkare of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) that investigations led to alleged Hindu extremists based in Indore, as first reported by The Indian Express on October 23, 2010. Investigations revealed the blasts were the handiwork of extremist Hindu organisations. Twelve people were arrested in the case, including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit.
April 13, 2011: On the direction of Home Ministry, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over the case along with a several other blast cases involving right-wing extremists, including the 2007 Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Dargah bombings and it is still investigating.
September 23, 2011: The Supreme Court (SC) rejects the bail plea of Sadhvi Pragya Thakur
April 15, 2015: The Supreme Court held that the Malegaon accused cannot be charged under MCOCA since there was no evidence as on date. Opening the doors for their release on bail, it further said that the trial court should decide their bail plea on merit and without applicability of MCOCA, preferably within one month.
June 24, 2015: The Indian Express quotes Rohini Salian, Special Public Prosecutor in the case related to the Malegaon 2008 blasts, saying that she has been under pressure from NIA to go “soft” in the case.
2016: Charges against Pragya Singh Thakur and five others get dropped by the NIA. Agency tells a special court that it found no evidence against them.
April 17, 2017: NIA submits in the Supreme Court that it will not oppose bail for accused Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit as the chargesheet has already been filed.
April 25, 2017: The Bombay High Court granted bail to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur on a surety bond of Rs 5 lakh. She was directed to deposit her passport in the NIA court. The High Court, however, rejected the bail of another accused in the case, Lt Colonel Prasad Purohit, saying the accusations against him seem “prima facie true”.
August 17, 2017: The Supreme Court reserved its verdict on a plea of Lieutenant Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit seeking interim bail.
August 21, 2017: The Supreme Court on Monday granted bail to Lt. Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit.
December 27, 2017: Special NIA court drops MCOCA charges against Sadhvi Pragya, Lt Colonel Purohit