Jailed Malegaon blasts suspect Lt Col Shrikant Purohit has moved the Supreme Court, saying his detention was illegal because of the National Investigating Agency (NIA)’s tardy probe since taking over the case six years ago.
His petition said the anti-terrorist agency was struggling to file its final report as it has yet to decide to drop the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against the accused, despite indicating twice to do so.
The armyman — in jail for more than seven years after the 2008 blasts killed six people and wounded more than 100 in the Maharashtra town — pleaded that the NIA’s delay should be a ground for his release.
The delay prompted a Mumbai special court to proceed with the case based on the Maharashtra anti-terror squad’s 2011 chargesheet and pass an order as the NIA kept taking time to give its final view on the MCOCA law.
The anti-terrorism squad’s chargesheet under MCOCA made it difficult for Purohit and fellow accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and nine others to get bail.
But the top court said in 2015 that evidence submitted till then were not enough for the case to be tried under MCOCA.
It asked the trial court to consider the bail applications of the accused without referring to the special law.
But the NIA failed to place the status of its investigation before the trial court.
“During this entire six-year period, the NIA has not filed a single application seeking extension of period of 180 days (mandatory time to file a final investigation report), nor has the NIA filed a single report of the progress,” read his petition.
Purohit argued that the investigation remains incomplete and his detention without trial is illegal.
Born into a middle-class Maharashtrian Brahmin family, Purohit was enlisted into the Maratha Light Infantry in 1994 and later transferred to military intelligence, the wing he was working with at the time of his arrest.
He has been accused of being an active member of Abhinav Bharat, a radical Hindu group, and stealing 60 kg of RDX from the army, a portion of which was allegedly used in the Malegaon blasts. Besides, Purohit is charged with funding and training Hindu extremist groups, including Abhinav Bharat.
In 2011, the UPA government of the time transferred all cases involving the Hindu right-wing group to the NIA.
He called his detention illegal because the Maharashtra ATS is no longer the prosecuting agency. “For the past seven years, the petitioner has been in custody, without the investigating agency completing the investigation. The special judge has erred in ignoring his fundamental rights,” his petition said.