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Rediff.com  » News » Malegaon blasts case: Lt Col Purohit gets bail after 9 years

Malegaon blasts case: Lt Col Purohit gets bail after 9 years

Last updated on: August 21, 2017 22:06 IST

The Supreme Court on Monday granted bail to Lt Col Shrikant Prasad Purohit, who has been languishing in jail for almost nine years for his alleged role in 2008 Malegaon blast case, observing there were contradictions in the chargesheets filed by different investigating agencies.

The top court also said it cannot deny the relief to him merely because “sentiments of community was against him”.

 

Six people were killed in a bomb blast on September 29, 2008, at Malegaon, a communally-sensitive textile town in Nasik district of north Maharashtra.

The apex court said there were “material contradictions” in the chargesheets filed by the Anti-Terrorist Squad,Mumbai and the National Investigating Agency, which are required to be tested at the time of trial, and it cannot pick or choose one version over the other.

A bench of Justices R K Agrawal and Abhay Mohan Sapre, while taking note of variations in the charge sheets filed by ATS Mumbai and NIA, said that fresh
ground for consideration of Purohit’s bail plea was made out, as at the relevant time, he was an intelligence officer of the Indian Army.

It said that Purohit has refuted the claim of conspiracy on the ground that he had informed to his senior officers about the intelligence inputs of meetings attended by him at the Abhinav Bharat, a right-wing Hindu extremist outfit, and alleged role of ATS officials in the planting of RDX explosive substance at the residence of a co-accused.

Keeping in view that NIA submitted a supplementary chargesheet which is “at variance” with the one filed by the ATS, the trial was likely to take a long time and the appellant has been in prison for about eight years and eight months, “we are of the considered view that the appellant has made out a prima facie case for release on bail and we deem it appropriate to enlarge the appellant herein on bail,” the bench said.

Holding that the “grant or denial is regulated, to a large extent, by the facts and circumstances of each particular case,” it said but the “right to bail is not to be denied merely because of the sentiments of the community being against the accused.”

“Liberty of a citizen is undoubtedly important but this is to balance with the security of the community. A balance is required to be maintained between the personal liberty of the accused and the investigational rights of the agency. It must result in minimum interference with the personal liberty of the accused and the right of the agency to investigate the case,” the bench said.

The court set aside the April 25 verdict of the Bombay high court denying bail to Purohit, but imposed certain restrictions while granting him relief after he spent eight
years and eight months in jail.

Among the conditions imposed by apex court while granting bail to Purohit was that he would not leave India without prior permission of court and not directly or indirectly make any inducement to any witnesses.

The court, however, made it clear that the grant of bail to Purohit, shall be no ground for similar relief to other accused in the case and each plea for relief will be considered on its own merits.

“We also make it clear that the Special Court shall decide the bail applications if filed by the other accused persons, uninfluenced by any observation made by this Court. Further, any observations made by us in this order shall not come in the way of deciding the trial on merits”, it said.

The apex court took into consideration that NIA during its probe had found that there were contradictions with regard to the evidence led in the chargesheet by the ATS and it was concluded that no offence under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act was attracted.

The confessional statements recorded under the MCOCA provisions by the ATS were not being relied upon by the NIA in the charge sheet against the accused persons, it said.

The bench said that NIA found no evidence against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur to prosecute her, as all the witnesses had retracted from their statements.

Purohit had moved the apex court challenging the Bombay high court’s order dismissing his bail plea.

A special MCOCA court had earlier ruled that the ATS had wrongly applied this law against Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, Purohit and nine others.

The 4,000-page chargesheet had alleged that Malegaon was selected as the blast target because of a sizeable Muslim population there. It had named Thakur, Purohit and co-accused, Swami Dayanand Pandey as the key conspirators. However, Thakur was last year given clean chit by the NIA. 

Purohit’s bail triggers war of words between Cong, BJP

The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party engaged in a war of words over the Supreme Court granting bail to 2008 Malegaon serial blasts accused Lt Col Shrikant Prasad Purohit, with the former blaming the ruling party of “protecting” all the accused “connected to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh”.

The BJP, however, demanded an apology from Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her deputy Rahul Gandhi for “politicising terror, conspiring to besmirch the army’s reputation and defaming the Hindu community”.

The Congress raised questions over National Investigation Agency chief Sharad Kumar getting two extensions and hoped that justice would be done in the Malegaon serial blasts case, “without fear or favour”.

“Col Purohit gets bail. It was expected as the present BJP govt is protecting all the accused connected with RSS in all Bomb Blast cases (sic),” Congress leader Digvijaya Singh wrote on Twitter.    

The BJP criticised the Congress’s reaction to Purohit getting bail and said Sonia and Rahul must apologise for “indulging in the politicisation of terror”.

BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao also condemned the main opposition party for its “attempts to defame the Hindu community in particular and Indians in general”.

“The conspiracy was also to besmirch the excellent reputation of the Indian Army, a nasty habit that the Congress continues to follow till date,” he alleged.

At the Congress briefing, party spokesperson Manish Tewari said grant of bail was neither a proof of innocence nor guilt as bail was essentially the court’s prerogative.

“An interim bail frankly has no reflection or connection with the merits of the case as we understand that a chargesheet has been filed. The matter is under adjudication and a trial court will determine it,” he said.

As far as justice dispensation was concerned, Tewari said the Congress was “not in the business of speculating” as a responsible political party.

“We are not trying to draw parallels here, but it is surprising that this government has not been able to find a single competent officer to head the NIA.

“These repeated extensions have been frowned upon by the Supreme Court and therefore, what the government is doing is a flagrant violation of the law laid down by the apex court andit needs to answer why can’t the NIA have a head with a fixed tenure,” Tewari said. 

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