A special NIA court decided to frame charges under UAPA against Pragya Thakur despite the NIA giving her a clean chit. Terror charges under UAPA, not MCOCA, against Lt Col Prasad Purohit and six others in Malegaon blast case

by Rebecca Samervel

MUMBAI: Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur will stand trial in the Malegaon 2008 blast case even though the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court had not opposed her discharge plea and had given her a clean chit in the supplementary chargesheet submitted in the case last year.

On Wednesday, the special NIA court held that seven accused, including Thakur and Lt Col Prasad Purohit, will be tried for terror charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or UAPA.

The blast killed six people and left another 100 injured.

The matter has been adjourned to January 15, after which the court is likely to schedule the framing of charges against Thakur, Purohit, Major Ramesh Upadhyay, Sameer Kulkarni, Ajay Rahirkar, Sudhakar Dwivedi and Sudhakar Chaturvedi. The trial will commence once charges are framed.

The NIA, in its 2016 chargesheet, had accused the anti-terrorism squad (the first investigating agency in the case) of planting RDX traces to frame Purohit. It let off Thakur and five others, saying evidence against her was not sufficient to justify prosecution.

Refusing to grant Thakur's plea for discharge in the case, special judge Shripad D Tekale considered all evidence at this stage and said, "Thakur had knowledge of involvement of her motorcycle in the blast and her dissatisfaction about causing less (sic) casualties. Hence, it is difficult to accept the submission on behalf of Thakur that she had no concern (sic) with the present crime as she had been exonerated by NIA."

The court dropped charges invoked under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). The charges were first applied by ATS and later revoked by NIA in its 2016 chargesheet. The NIA had told the court that during the course of investigation, it was established that no offence under MCOCA was attracted and hence the confessional statements recorded by the ATS under the act were not relied upon.

Additionally, the court dropped three charges under UAPA against the accused: raising funds for a terrorist act, being a member of a terrorist gang or organisation and intent to aid any terrorist or a terrorist organisation or a terrorist gang.

While three others — Shivnarayan Kalsangra, Shyam Sahu and Praveen Takkalki — have been granted discharge on all charges, and will not face trial, two others — Rakesh Dhawde and Jagdish Mhatre — will face trial only for offences punishable under the Arms Act. The maximum sentence they may attract is seven years in jail. Dhawde has been in jail since his arrest in the case in 2008. The case against him and Mhatre will be transferred to a competent court in Pune since charges under MCOCA and UAPA have been dropped against them. All arrested accused except Dhawde are out on bail.