2008 Malegaon blasts case: NIA wants in-camera trial
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) wants proceedings in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case to be held in-camera to protect the identity of the witnesses and bar the media from publishing the details. Special public prosecutor Avinash Rasal moved the plea on Thursday after the high court questioned the prosecution if the agency has sought in-camera hearings to protect the identity of the witnesses. This is the first time in the state that the prosecution has moved such a plea for a blast case.
The special NIA court on Friday adjourned the hearing to Monday, after the defence lawyers pleaded for intervention. The defence, while seeking a copy of the NIA plea, said the decision of the court on the request will have an effect on many other cases and proceedings in the future. One of the accused Sameer Kulkarni and the others have objected to the plea. It will ban the publication of anything related to the trial without obtaining explicit permission from the court.
According to the prosecution case, the bomb, allegedly placed in a bike, went off at Malegaon on September 29, 2008, killing six people and injuring 101. The police have seized the bike and other vehicles damaged in the blast. The special court is conducting the trial against seven accused in – Lt Col Prasad Purohit, MP Pragya Singh Thakur, Sudhakar Dhar Dwivedi alias Swami Amrit Anand, Kulkarni, Ajay Rahirkar, Major Ramesh Upadhyay and Sudhakar Chaturvedi.
The agency in its plea stated: “The case involves facts having a direct bearing on the communal harmony, national security and public order and the sensitive nature of the case, unwarranted publicity needs to be avoided, as it has the potential to damage communal harmony and eventually jeopardise the fairness of the trial. It is necessary to conduct trial of this case in camera under the provision of NIA Act and UAPA act.”
“The allegations against the accused in this case are that they have committed the offense to take revenge against Muslim jihadi activities and to create a rift between two communities. As per prosecution, for causing the bomb blast, Malegaon was chosen, because it was a Muslim dominated area. In view of the above mentioned background for maintaining harmony in society, it is necessary to conduct ‘in camera’ hearing and restrained on the publication of the court proceeding,” states the plea.
Prior to this, the agency had stated in their application that proceedings related to arguments for applicability of MCOCA were also made in camera on the request of the defence lawyer in June 2016. After the order on dropping charges, the proceedings were opened. The trial in the case began last year and so far the prosecution has examined 124 witnesses of the 475 listed witnesses. Most of the witnesses examined were victims.