In a relief to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Lt Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit and three others in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held there was no evidence at this stage to show their involvement in organised crime.
It directed the trial court to examine their bail on merits without referring to the stringent provisions under MCOCA.
A bench headed by Justice FMI Kalifulla delivered its verdict on a batch of appeals filed by six accused in the blast case five years ago after the Bombay High Court verdict invoked MCOCA charges against them. The trial court had revoked it. Purohit, a military intelligence officer and others have been in jail since 2008.
The SC said there was no concrete evidence to show their involvement in any other criminal case as claimed by the National Investigating Agency (NIA). The agency had said that they were behind two other attacks – in Parbhani and Jalna. It asked the trial court to hear their bail pleas afresh preferably within a month.
The court said MCOCA was applicable only against one of the accused, Rakesh Dhawde, who was chargehseeted in two other cases as well.
“In so far as the rest of the appellants are concerned, for the purpose of invoking Section 21(4)(b) (MCOCA), namely, to consider their claim for bail, it can be held that for the present juncture with the available materials on record, it is not possible to show any nexus of the appellants who have been proceeded against for their involvement in Malegaon blast with the two earlier cases, namely, Parbhani and Jalna. There is considerable doubt about their involvement in Parbhani and Jalna and, therefore, they are entitled for their bail applications to be considered on merits,” the court said.
It, however, did not express any opinion on the allegations against the accused and left it to the trial judge to consider the bail application on merits.
The Bombay High Court had in 2010 restored MCOCA against the accused after the state police, which was earlier probing the blast case, moved an appeal against the trial court verdict revoking the stringent law.
The accused have denied their involvement in the Malegaon blast that killed six persons and injured several others. They have also refuted being co-conspirators in any organised crime syndicate.
Purohit already got bail in two cases under the Arms Act, but was denied any relief in this case by the SC in 2012.
The intelligence officer has claimed he had succeeded in infiltrating several militant organizations and that he was falsely implicated. He asked for bail on the ground the NIA was yet to file chargesheet and the trial would take several years to end.
NIA rebutted the allegations of the ground it could not file a final report as Purohit was yet to be interrogated. It said due to a SC stay the agency has not been able to question him. The agency accused him of not disclosing his involvement with Abhinav Bharat Trust to his seniors.