The National Investigating Agency (NIA) is likely to file a reply on the bail application filed by religious leader Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur in the 2008 Malegaon blast case today.
On May 13, the NIA recommended dropping all charges against Thakur and five others for lack of evidence, saying a shoddy probe by investigators in Maharashtra forced the U-turn. The investigators revoked provisions of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in the case and alleged that the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) framed one of the accused by planting explosives at his address.
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 to not reveal anything about the visit.
Two weeks later, on November 25, ATS officials searched Chaturvedi’s house and found a detonator, 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. The 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 that 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 Sudharkar 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,” said the charge sheet.
“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,” read the NIA charge sheet.
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 anti-terror 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 from the ATS 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. In the September 2008 blasts in the Muslim-majority town of Malegaon, six people were killed and 101 were injured.