The applicability of MCOCA in the Malegaon 2008 case hinged on trial courts taking cognisance of at least two other chargesheets against one or more of the accused. Two previous chargesheets of an organised crime syndicate is a requirement for MCOCA. In this case, the arguments revolved around whether a co-accused, Rakesh Dhawade, had been chargesheeted in two earlier blast cases, in Parbhani and in Jalna.
In July 2009, a special court had dropped MCOCA charges against Shrikant Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and others, on the ground that at the time of taking cognisance in the Malegaon case, cognisance of the chargesheets in the other blast cases had not been taken.
The following year, Bombay High Court set this aside and restored MCOCA charges, holding that cognisance of the offences had been taken by trial courts before the Malegaon chargesheet came up. “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.
The high court sent the matter sent to the special court. This order was then challenged by Purohit, Thakur and other accused in the Supreme Court.
On April 15 this year, the Supreme Court held that they cannot be charged under MCOCA since there was no evidence as on date. Opening the doors for their release on bail, it said the trial court should decide their bail plea on merits and without applicability of MCOCA, preferably within one month.
In order to ensure a “speedy trial” in the matter, a bench of Justices F M I Kalifulla and Abhay M Sapre also requested the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court to designate a special court for trial and make certain that the trial begins at the earliest and is concluded expeditiously.