The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to take up on Monday an appeal filed by Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, key accused in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blasts case, challenging her prosecution under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).
A Bench of Justices Markandeya Katju and T S Thakur said it would hear the matter along with the similar appeal filed earlier by co-accused Lieutenant Colonel SP Purohit.
Both the accused have challenged the Bombay High Court's direction allowing the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) to invoke the provisions of MCOCA against them. The High Court had passed the direction after reversing a judgement of the Designated MCOCA Court, which had on July 31, 2009 quashed the charges against the duo and nine others.
The accused have taken the plea that the High Court had erred in upholding the MCOCA provision against them and submitted that to invoke the Act, there should be previous history of organised criminal activities against them.
It was submitted that they had no prior criminal antecedents and even in the present bomb blast case they were falsely implicated.
Seven people were killed in a bomb blast on September 29, 2008, at Malegaon, a communally sensitive textile town in Nasik district Maharashtra. The probe into the blast had brought into focus some right-wing Hindu groups.
A special MCOCA court had on July 31, 2009 held that the ATS had wrongly applied MCOCA in the case against Pragya, Purohit and nine others.
The 4,000-page charge sheet had alleged that Malegaon was selected as the blast target because Muslims form the majority of its population. It named Thakur, Lieutenant Colonel SP Purohit and another accused Swami Dayanand Pandey as the key conspirators.
The charge sheet had further alleged that it was Pandey who had instructed Purohit to arrange for the RDX while Pragya owned the motorcycle used in the blast.
Ajay Rahirkar, another accused, allegedly organised funds 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 are the other six accused.
Purohit is the first serving Indian army officer accused of playing a major role in planning and executing a terror blast.
ATS had also arrested retired Army officer Major Ramesh Upadhyay, who along with Thakur, was said to be a member of right wing Hindu group Abhinav Bharat.
Purohit had come in contact with Upadhyay when he was posted at Nashik in the Army's liaison unit.