Malegaon Blast Case, 2008
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
Malegaon Blast Case, 2008- a timeline as in December 2017
The case, in brief
See graphic. i) The case, 2008-Aug 17;
ii) How ATs and NIA probes differed;
iii) High Court’s observations; iv) Defence arguments in the Supreme Court
2016: NIA lets off Pragya, 5 others; says Lt Col Purohit framed
Shibu Thomas & Mateen Hafeez
In a turnaround, NIA says Maha Anti-Terror Squad planted RDX to frame Lt Col Purohit
In a stunning turnaround in the politically sensitive 2008 Malegaon blasts case, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday accused the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of planting RDX traces to frame prime accused Lt Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit, while it let off another prominent accused, Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, and five others saying evidence against the firebrand Hindutva activist was not sufficient to justify prosecution. In a supplementary chargesheet filed before a special court here, the NIA said Purohit and eight others should be tried as accused in the blasts conspiracy case, but recommended that the charges brought against them under Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) be dropped and they be tried under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) instead.The switch of Acts means the alleged confessional statements of the accused and testimonies of witnesses before police officers will not be treated as evidence any more.
The biggest surprise, however, was NIA's sensational charge that the ATS under Hemant Karkare, who was killed during the 2611 attacks, planted evidence to frame Purohit, a military intelligence officer who was tasked with tracking terrorists but allegedly got mixed up with Hindutva groups plotting to avenge jihadi terror attacks on Hindu targets.The central agency alleged that an ATS officer, sub-inspector Shekhar Bagde, left traces of RDX in the house of another accused, retired Army personnel Sudhakar Chaturvedi, in Deolali.
The NIA cited the testimony of an Army major and a subedar to claim that Bagde broke into Chaturvedi's house to allegedly deposit traces of RDX. The Army major and subedar told a Court of Inqui ry hearing Puroit's appeal that Bagde pleaded with them not to report him. Two days later, however, an ATS team raided the house and picked up the RDX traces similar to the one used in Malegaon blasts by using a cotton swab. “This recovery itself becomes suspicious,“ the NIA told the court.
The NIA also dismissed the charge against Purohit that he kept part of a haul of RDX he had recovered as a military intelligence officer in J&K, claiming that their inquiries with the Army established that all 70kg of the explosive confiscated during Purohit's time was accounted for.
The chargesheet is a scathing indictment of the methods used by the Karkare-led ATS and accuses it of using dubious methods and torturing accused. “There are several inherent legal lacunas and complications in the chargesheet filed by ATS, which have emerged during further investigation,“ the NIA claimed, adding that it was not relying on such evidence.
The NIA also targeted the ATS over torture allegations of some of the witnesses and accused and disappearance of one of the main witnesses whose identity was withheld.“The dubious method adopted during the investigation by ATS becomes crystal clear from the disappearance of one of the main witnesses,“ the NIA said, and pointed to CBI's findings against ATS officers. Justifying its decision to drop charges against Pragya Thakur, the NIA chargesheet said, “The evidence on record against her are not sufficient to prosecute her as all the witnesses have retracted their statements. Thus, no case is made out against her.“
ATS's case against the sadhvi rested on the fact that she owned the LML Freedom motorcycle which was rigged with explosives. However, NIA claimed that after reassessing evidence, it had come to the conclusion that she had handed over the motorcycle to fugitive accused Ramchandra Kalsangra almost two years before the blast. The agency used the state ment of a mechanic to jus tify its conclusion that Pragya Thakur had handed over the motorcycle to Ramchandra Kalsangra. The charge that she attended a meeting in Bhopal to plot the blasts could not be proved because two witnesses, Yashpal Bhadana and R P Singh, retracted their statements. Similarly , the NIA said no case was made out against the five other accused -Shivnarayan Kalsangra, Shyam Sahu, Praveen Takkalki, Lokesh Sharma and Dhan Singh.
Those who stay accused along with Purohit are retired Army major Ramesh Upadhyay , Sameer Kulkarni, Ajay Rahirkar, Rakesh Dhawde, Sudhakar Dwivedi, Sudhakar Chaturvedi and the two fugitives, Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange NIA said another accused, Jagdish Mhatre, was not involved in the blasts conspiracy and should be prosecuted under the Arms Act for sale and purchase of illicit arms.
On the withdrawal of MCOCA charges, the chargesheet said, “Confessional statements recorded by the ATS are not relied upon by the NIA.“
Purohit and his fellow ac cused have been charged under the UAPA, as well as for a host of crimes, including murder and criminal conspiracy, under the IPC, and the Arms Act and Explosive Substances Act. If convicted, they face the death sentence. The chargesheet said Purohit had floated the “Abhinav Bharat organisation in 2006 in spite of being a commissioned officer of the armed forces of India, which is against service rules“. He was alleged to have collected huge funds and directed that it should be disbursed to procure weapons and explosives.
The NIA further alleged that at a 2008 meeting in Faridabad, Purohit had proposed “a separate constitution for Hindu Rashtra with a separate `Bhagwa' flag. He discussed the formation of a central Hindu government (Aryawart) against the Indian government and put forth the idea of forming this government in exile in Israel and Thailand“. It further said Purohit had discussed “taking revenge for the atrocities committed by Muslims on Hindus“.
Former special public prosecutor Rohini Salian said, “There are now two chargesheets before the special court -one by ATS and the other by NIA. It is now up to the court to decide which is proper.“