The special court hearing the 2008 Malegaon blast case Monday rejected an application from accused Pragya Singh Thakur, the newly elected BJP MP from Bhopal, seeking exemption from appearance during the trial from June 3 to June 7.
As stipulated earlier, Thakur will have to remain present before the court at least once this week. The court also referred to a Supreme Court order, which had directed trials involving political figures to be expedited, and said that since Thakur is “now an MP and a political leader”, this trial has to be speeded up.
On May 17, the court had directed all accused to remain present before it at least once a week unless they have a “cogent reason” for their absence. On Monday, Thakur’s advocates J P Mishra and Prashant Maggu filed a plea stating that she had to complete various Parliamentary procedures, including enrollment, identity card and allotment of residence.
She said that this would require her to go from Delhi to Bhopal and that travelling to Mumbai for the court appearance would be difficult.
“The grounds shown in application for grant of exemption by accused number 1 (Thakur) cannot be accepted as time and again she undertakes to remain present before court,” special judge V S Padalkar said, while rejecting the plea.
The court said that while granting bail to Thakur, the Bombay High Court had specifically directed her to remain present at the time of hearing. It said the presence of the accused on each and every date has already been relaxed, and they are directed to remain present only once a week.
“It is seen that on many dates, exemption application of accused were granted by court, only for reason that the prosecution had examined the injured and medical witnesses. Now, the material witnesses are being called by the prosecution to adduce their evidence to prove the case. The presence of accused is certainly necessary before the court,” the court said.
So far, the court has heard witnesses from among those injured in the blast as well as those who examined them, as one of the accused Sudharkar Dhar Dwivedi has denied that a blast took place on September 28, 2008, causing the death of six persons and injuring 101.
On Monday, an official from the then land records department in Nashik, who had prepared maps of the blast site, was examined by special public prosecutor Avinash Rasal. Thakur’s advocates cross-examined him.
The special court said the presence of the accused is necessary as at the end of the trial, they have to answer on the evidence presented against them by the prosecution.
“The accused are entitled to submit their say while recording their statements (under section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code). The advocates engaged by the accused cannot answer to questions put forth by court while recording of their statements,” the court said.
“Time and again, the honourable apex court has directed the court to decide matters of political leaders expeditiously. In view of these directions, now that accused number 1 being an MP and a political leader and since the matter is already expedited… again I pass order that she should remain present in court once in a week, so also other accused. In case of failure to obey order, necessary order will be passed,” the court said.
While her advocates pointed out that Thakur had sought exemption to complete procedures in Parliament, the court pointed out that there is no session till June 7. The next Parliament session begins on June 17.
The court, however, permitted the exemption application filed by accused Dwivedi, who said he was away for religious activity, and Sudhakar Chaturvedi, who said he could not attend for a day due to a “personal difficulty”. Both were exempted only on Monday and their lawyers were directed to inform them to remain present at least once this week.
The other accused, including Sameer Kulkarni, Ajay Rahirkar and Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit, were present in court.