IN demolishing the case built by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) relied on new statements of key witnesses. One ATS witness upon re-examination reportedly denied being present at a key conspiracy meeting in Bhopal in April 2008.
A re-examination of three of the accused — Ramesh Upadhyay, Sameer Kulkarni and Sudhakar Dwivedi — by the NIA revealed that one witness who the ATS had said was present at a conspiracy meeting in Bhopal in April 2008, was not in attendance according to the three. The NIA claimed this led them to recall the witness for re-examining.
According to the ATS, it was at this meeting in Bhopal that Prasad Purohit discussed revenge on Muslims by carrying out blasts in Muslim-populated areas such as Malegaon. The witness’s statement was inconsistent with his earlier statement, leading to a fresh statement being recorded before a magistrate in Delhi under Section 164 of the CrPC.
“During his examination, he deposed that he was never called to attend any meeting in Bhopal. He had never visited Bhopal until ATS took him to a Ram Mandir at Bhopal in the month of May 2009,” the NIA chargesheet states.
Further, about his presence at the Faridabad meeting where the ATS claimed that the conspiracy was hatched, the same witness said he was present but did not hear the discussions. With regard to a meeting in Nashik as well, he said he was in town to visit a temple and did not attend any meeting. The witness claimed the ATS threatened to falsely implicate him in the case if he did not give the statement.
Another witness, who the ATS claimed knew of a meeting between Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Ramchandra Kalsangra after the blast where the latter purportedly confessed to having committed the crime, told a magistrate in 2008 itself that he had been illegally detained and tortured by the ATS.
The NIA has also cited two witnesses to back their claim that explosives appeared to have been ‘planted’ by the Maharashtra ATS.
Witness Number 180 stated, “I did not say anything about the explosives in the house of Sudhakar Chaturvedi in the statement given to the ATS because Shri Bagade instructed me not to tell anything to anyone about this.” Bagade was an assistant police inspector with ATS. Witness 180 also adds that during the Court of Inquiry constituted against Lt Col Purohit, he decided to “tell the truth”.
The same witness adds that Bagade’s conduct was suspicious when he visited Chaturvedi’s home.
“I entered the room and saw API Bagade was alone inside and doing something. On seeing me, he immediately came out and pleaded with me not to inform about the incident to anyone,” the witness claims.
Another witness who worked as an administration and training officer at Bhosala Military School at Nashik and was well acquainted with Purohit said the ATS threatened him and made him record a statement against Purohit. “I was forced to give a confessional statement stating that Purohit gave me three weapons with ammunition to be kept in his house,” he said. Even the description of the weapon was dictated to him, he said, as well as his account that he had seen RDX in Purohit’s house in Deolali.