Investigators in Maharashtra tortured several accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case to extract confessions and invoke strict anti-terror law against them but the move didn’t stand judicial scrutiny, the National Investigation Agency said on Friday.
The strong comments came after the agency dropped all charges against controversial religious leader Pragya Thakur and four others, triggering Opposition allegations that the “Hindu terror” accused were freed because of government pressure.
In a supplementary chargesheet filed in a special court, the NIA listed many “shortcomings” in the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad investigations and said courts did not believe the confession statements.
The confession statements were used by the ATS to use provisions of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) that allows confessions before police to be admitted as evidence.
When produced before a magistrate for confirmation of the confessional statement, accused Sudhakar Dwivedi said his confession was the outcome of torture, the NIA said.
The agency also said “dubious” methods adopted during investigation by ATS was clear from the disappearance of one of the main witness.
“The CBI during its investigation in the disappearance of the witness has submitted findings against the officers of the ATS Mumbai,” the agency said.
“The way and circumstances in which the ATS invoked the provisions of MCOCA in this case becomes questionable”, the NIA chargesheet said.
The September 2008 blasts in the Muslim-majority Maharashtra town killed seven people. In 2009, the state anti-terrorism squad named 14 people in a chargesheet, including Thakur – who was arrested on charges of being a key conspirator.
The case was handed over to the NIA in 2011 along with six other cases of alleged Hindu terror.
Union minister Kiren Rijiju dismissed the Opposition allegations, saying there was no interference in the probe.
“Justice should prevail. There should be no interference in handling such cases. Our government has allowed agencies to work independently,” he told reporters.