In a big relief for Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and others in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said that there was no evidence to charge them under MCOCA at this stage and their bail could hence be examined on merit by a trial court.
The order to consider their bail expeditiously came six and half years after the military intelligence officer and others were arrested and jailed in connection with the blast case
A bench of Justices FMI Kalifulla and Abhay Manohar Sapre said there was no concrete evidence to show their involvement in any other criminal case and the trial court should decide their bail plea on merit, preferably within one month.
It said that there was “considerable doubt” about the involvement of six accused, including Purohit and Pragya, in Malegaon blasts and that the trial court ought to hear their bail plea afresh.
It said MCOCA was applicable only against one of the accused, Rakesh Dhawde, who was chargehseeted in two other cases as well.
The bench was hearing an appeal by the accused against invocation of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act (MCOCA) in the case.
MCOCA was restored in the case by the Bombay High Court in 2010 after a sessions court had revoked it. The prosecution has claimed that Pragya, Purohit and nine others were part of an organised crime syndicate and their involvement in at least two more cases prompted invocation of MCOCA.
The accused have however denied any involvement in the blast at Maharashtra’s Malegaon in September 2008 that killed six persons and injured several others.
They have also refuted being co-conspirators in any organised crime syndicate.
Purohit has already got bail in two cases under the Arms Act, but was denied interim bail in this case by the top court in 2012.
In his bail plea, Purohit claimed that he was a military intelligence officer who had succeeded in infiltrating several militant Muslim organisations such as the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which is proscribed, and that he was “falsely implicated” in the case by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) for “political reasons”.
He sought bail on the ground that no chargesheet had been filed yet by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and hence, any trial would take several years. “He is a well-decorated officer in the Indian army.
However, NIA disputes this version and has previously opposed bail for him. NIA, which has taken over the probe from ATS, is yet to complete it because of a top court stay on interrogating Purohit under the MCOCA.
The agency claimed he did not keep his superiors in the loop about his activities related to the Abhinav Bharat Trust.
The NIA contended that Purohit floated the trust with the objective of seeking revenge against Muslims in retaliation against terrorist attacks by banned Islamist outfits and eventually setting up a Hindu Rashtra by the name of Aryawart in India.