NIA’s special prosecutor in 2008 Malegaon blast case gets security cover

  • Charul Shah and Manish Pathak, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: May 24, 2016 11:19 IST
In this file photo, forensic experts can be seen searching for clues at the blast site in Malegaon. (AFP)

The special prosecutor of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the 2008 Malegaon blast case has been provided with a security cover, days after the central agency filed a supplementary charge sheet, police sources said.

“A security review meeting held in March indicated threats to Rasal and some key witnesses in the case. We have provided security to them,” a senior IPS officer, who did not wish to be named, said.

Sources said Avinash Rasal, who lives under the jurisdiction of Khar police station, has been provided three constables - two are posted at his residence and one travels with him.

“We have given him the required security cover as directed by the authorities,” Ramchandra Jadhav, senior police inspector of Khar police station, said.

Rasal, however, ruled out the possibility of a threat to his life and said he has not received any threats. “The state has given me security suo motu for the past week,” he said.

The threat to witnesses can also have a bearing on the recent supplementary charge sheet filed by the NIA in Mumbai, where the central agency revoked provisions of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in the case and even discharged religious leader Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and five other accused.

Read: Why NIA dropped charges in Malegaon case

The NIA dropped all charges against Thakur and others for lack of evidence, saying a shoddy probe by Maharashtra authorities forced the U-turn and alleged the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) planted explosives on one of the accused.

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 police officer kept the visit a secret, even asking one of the witnesses not to reveal anything about the visit.

Two weeks later 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 — revealed 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.

“On considering the facts narrated by witnesses, the question arises why API Bagade visited the house of Sudhakar Chaturvedi in the absence of accused or witnesses, and why he requested one of the witnesses not to say anything about his presence in the house,” the charge sheet said.

“This creates doubt on this recovery of swabs of RDX keeping…”

“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,” it said.

Bagade, now a senior police inspector with Navi Mumbai police station, dismissed the charges.

“These are wild allegations. How can somebody plant RDX? I had gone to check the address of Chaturvedi, and it is on record,” he said.

Another key accused, Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit, was charged under the antiterror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Indian Penal Code. He and nine others were named in the charge sheet.

The case was handed over to the NIA in 2011 along with six other cases of alleged Hindu terror. The NIA charge sheet said MCOCA provisions were dropped because of procedural lapses and the ATS appeared to have filed charge sheets against one of the accused without sufficient evidence, only to fulfil conditions of the anti-terror act.

Without the MCOCA, confessions by the accused to police officers wouldn’t be admissible in court.

Seven people were killed and 101 injured in the twin explosions when people were coming out of prayers during Ramzan on September 29, 2008, in the Muslim-majority Malegaon town.

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