One of the most prominent faces of alleged Hindu terror in India, religious leader Pragya Thakur, is likely to get off the hook in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case for lack of proof, sources said on Saturday.
Another key accused in the case, Lt. Col Prasad Purohit, is expected to be named in the chargesheet.
Sources in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) said it didn’t find concrete proof linking Thakur to the blasts that killed seven people but had “enough evidence” against Purohit.
He was allegedly involved in the setting up of Abhinav Bharat and met some of its members to discuss terror plans. The NIA is in the process of finalising the chargesheet, which will be submitted in a special court next month.
“The evidence against Pragya looks very weak and she may not be charged,” said an investigator.
The agency also decided to drop Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) provisions against the accused because of procedural lapses by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS)
“Our investigation is still not complete. And as far as MCOCA is concerned, even if, for the sake of argument, it is not invoked, we have enough provisions available under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,” NIA chief Sharad Kumar told HT. He is expected to take a final call on the charges soon.
But sources said dropping MCOCA will weaken the case as confessions of the accused made before a police officer will no longer be admissible as evidence in a court.
This will strengthen opposition parties, who repeatedly accuse the NDA government of going slow in cases where Hindu terror suspects are involved.
Several such cases – such blasts in Malegaon (September 2006 and September 2008), Samjhauta Express (February 2007) and Mecca Masjid (May 2007) – have been dogged by slow prosecution and hostile witnesses.
Of around a dozen witnesses in the 2008 Malegaon blasts, two retracted their statements five years back. One made a complaint before the Maharashtra human rights commission, alleging coercion. Two more witnesses, Yashpal Bhadana and Dr RP Singh, recently alleged the same in front of a magistrate. “There are a few more witnesses who have told the NIA that they gave statements under duress. Our probe is getting hampered by this,” said the investigator.
Former NIA prosecutor in the case Rohini Salian had alleged that an officer of the agency asked her to ‘go soft’ on the accused after the NDA came to power.
Thakur has been in judicial custody since October 2008. She was arrested on charges of being a key conspirator in the case and is one of the 14 accused named in a Maharashtra ATS chargesheet. The case was handed over to the NIA in 2011 along with six other cases of alleged Hindu terror.