January 31, 2017 10:00:01 pm
In a twist to the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast case, the NIA on Tuesday told the Bombay High Court it did not know if recordings or transcripts existed of a conspiracy meeting in Bhopal, as claimed by Maharashtra ATS, to plot the crime which prime accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur allegedly attended. Maharashtra ATS, which earlier probed the case, had alleged in its charge sheets that Thakur attended several conspiracy meetings held by the right wing group Abhinav Bharat in Bhopal, Indore, Faridabad, Dharamkot and Ujjain.
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It claimed key witnesses had heard Thakur discussing the conspiracy at a closed-door meeting in Bhopal on April 11, 2008, it said. This was the first meeting attended by Thakur, ATS claimed, and said its proceedings as also of such previous and subsequent gatherings, had been recorded and saved by the co-accused Sudhakar Dwivedi on his laptop.
ATS recovered the laptop, seized its hard disk for examination at FSL labs, and cited a host of audio and video clips retrieved from it to back its claims.
The division bench headed by Justice R V More, which was hearing Thakur’s bail plea today, was informed about the meeting by advocate B A Desai, who appeared for blast victims.
When the HC asked NIA to produce the transcript of the recording of the Bhopal meeting, the agency said it was not aware if it existed.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, representing NIA, the country’s anti-terror probe agency, said it only had the transcripts of an alleged meeting in Faridabad and if any more video recordings or transcripts existed, ATS had failed to hand them over to it.
“The Faridabad meeting was held before the Bhopal meeting and the reference to the accused was first made in the Bhopal meeting. So, if you have transcripts of the first meeting, the transcripts of the subsequent meetings must be there. What did you do with them? These were crucial meetings and the transcripts are important evidence. So, how are they missing?” the bench asked.
The High Court then directed additional public prosecutor Jayesh Yagnik to take instructions from the ATS. Yagnik, on instructions from an ATS officer present in the court, said it had submitted to the lower court a video clip of the Bhopal meeting.
The bench ordered the lower court to release, for the High Court’s inspection, copies of 11 CDs, some video clips, and call details that ATS had annexed with charge sheets.
HC is likely to resume hearing the matter on February 7.
Earlier, the NIA, after taking over the case, had told the lower court during a hearing on Thakur’s bail plea that it had no evidence against her. However, the court said there was prima facie evidence and rejected her application following which she moved the High Court.
Seven people were killed in two blasts in Malegaon town in Maharashtra’s Nashik district on September 29, 2008.