Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday ordered
that Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and other 10 accused in the 2008
Malegaon bomb blasts case will face trial under Maharashtra`s
tough MCOCA, a year after charges on them under this anti
-terror law were dropped.
In a boost to the Anti-Terrorism Squad(ATS), the High
Court restored the charges under Maharashtra Control of
Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) on all the 11 accused that also
included Lt Col S P Purohit after quashing the order of a
special court last year in this regard.
The Court said the application of MCOCA by the
prosecution was justified.
The ruling was given by Justice B H Marlapalle and
Justice Anoop Mohta on an appeal by the State government in
the Bombay High Court challenging the order of the special
The trial of the case will now resume before a Special
MCOCA court in Mumbai. The accused, currently lodged in Nasik Central Prison, would be brought to a jail here to stand the trial.
Seven people were killed in a bomb blast on September 29,
2008, at Malegaon, a communally-sensitive textile town in
Nasik district of North Maharashtra, bringing into focus some
right-wing Hindu groups.
On July 31 last year, a Special MCOCA court here had
ruled that ATS had wrongly applied MCOCA in this case against
Pragya, Purohit and nine others.
The special Court had opined that none of the accused
was part of organised crime syndicate and also no one had more than one chargesheet filed against him for invoking MCOCA.
Accordingly, the special court dropped MCOCA charges and
the case was transferred to a Nasik court for trial under IPC.
The 4,000-page chargesheet had alleged that Malegaon was
selected as the blast target because Muslims form sizeable
part of its population. It named Pragya Thakur, Purohit and
another accused Swami Dayanand Pandey as the key conspirators.
The chargesheet had further alleged it was Pandey who had
instructed Purohit to arrange for RDX while Sadhvi owned the
motorcycle used in the blast.
Ajay Rahirkar, another accused, allegedly organised
finances for the terror act while conspiracy meetings were
held at Bhonsala Military School in Nasik.
Rakesh Dhawde, Ramesh Upadhyay, Shyamlal Sahu, Shivnarain Kalsangra, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, Jagdish Mhatre and Sameer Kulkarni were the other seven accused.
In today`s order, the High Court directed the special
MCOCA court to hear and decide "preferably within two months" the bail applications filed by some of the accused.
Purohit`s lawyer Shrikant Shivade said that the
court has directed that all the accused should be produced
before the special MCOCA court on July 23.
Shivade said his client might move the Supreme Court.
Purohit`s wife Aparna said, "We did not expect this
Meanwhile, Special Prosecutor Rohini Salian said she
would soon initiate the process for the restart of the trial
in MCOCA court here. "We will now seek case papers from Nashik Sessions Court."
Upadhayay`s advocate Subhash Jha sought a stay on the
order, but the division bench rejected his application. Jha
said that his client would move the apex court.
For invoking MCOCA, it is necessary that there should
be prior cases filed against at least one of the conspirators
in the preceding ten years.
In this case, prosecution claimed that Dhawde was also
involved in cases of blasts registered in Parbhani (2003) and
Defence had taken the plea -- which trial court had
accepted -- that magistrates had not taken "cognisance" of
these two cases back then. They had also argued that Dhawde`s name did not figure in these two old cases originally.
He was made a co-accused in Jalna and Parbhani cases
only after his arrest and interrogation in the Malegaon case.
Rejected both these arguments, the court said "Special
court was wrong in holding that (Magistrate`s) court was
required to take cognisance of offences against Dhavde...
Cognisance is taken of offence, and not offender."