Malegaon blast case: Sadhvi Pragya’s release plea likely to be heard today

  • Charul Shah, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: May 30, 2016 11:09 IST
Hindu activist Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur got a clean chit from the NIA in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case. (Praveen Bajpai/ HT Photo )

 A Mumbai court is on Monday expected to decide on an NIA plea for the release of Pragya Singh Thakur, two weeks after the anti-terror body dropped all charges against the religious leader and five others in the 2008 Malegaon blast case.

Filing the charge sheet, the national investigation agency on May 13 said charges against Thakur and five others were not maintainable, saying a shoddy probe by Maharashtra authorities forced the U-turn.

The agency also dropped all charges under the stringent Maharashtra control of organised crime act (Mcoca) and alleged the state anti-terrorism squad (ATS) planted explosives on one of the accused. It charged 10 people under the anti-terror unlawful activities (prevention) act.

Read | Malegaon blast: Holes in ATC evidence let Pragya Thakur off the hook

The September 2008 blast in the Muslim-majority Malegaon town killed six people and injured 101. It was the most prominent in a string of alleged Hindu terror cases.

The charge sheet said an assistant police inspector Shekhar Bagade went to the house of an accused, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, when he wasn’t at home on November 3, 2008. But the officer kept the visit a secret, even asking one of the witnesses to not reveal anything.

On November 25, ATS officials searched Chaturvedi’s house and found a detonator and gunny bag, among other materials.

The samples on cotton swabs taken from his house — sent to the forensic science laboratory (FSL) in Mumbai — had traces of RDX. FSL said the explosive ingredients recovered from the blast site at Malegaon were similar to the samples from Chaturvedi’s house.

The NIA later examined accused Prasad Purohit and Ramesh Upadhayay, who revealed Bagade visited Chaturvedi’s house — a fact corroborated by an army major and a subedar.

The charge sheet questioned Bagade’s visit and his request for secrecy. “This creates doubt on this recovery of swabs of RDX keeping…” the charge sheet said.

“This recovery becomes suspect on the ground that the ATS Mumbai may have planted the RDX traces to implicate him, and the other accused in the case.”

Bagade, now a senior police inspector with Navi Mumbai police station, dismissed the charge as wild allegations. “How can somebody plant RDX? I had gone to check the address of Chaturvedi, and it is on record,” he said.

The NIA took over the Malegaon and six others alleged Hindu terror cases in 2011.

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