SC FINDS NO PROOF AGAINST PRAGYA, PUROHIT
Thursday, 16 April 2015 | PNS | New Delhi
The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday found fit grounds for the release of the 2008 Malegaon blast accused, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Army officer Shrikant Purohit, on bail as it held that the prosecution failed to link their role with previous blasts, necessary to establish the charge under the draconian Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) slapped on them.
Dealing with separate petitions filed by the seven accused, who challenged the MCOCA charges slapped on them by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad, the apex bench of Justices FM Ibrahim Kalifulla and Abhay Manohar Sapre concluded that except in the case of one accused, Rakesh Dhawade, there was no material to justify MCOCA charges against the other accused.
Under MCOCA, the SC said, the accused must directly or indirectly be found linked with an organised crime syndicate which has indulged in “continuing unlawful activity” in the past. The prosecution claimed that similar to the Malegaon blast, the accused carried out blasts in Parbhani and Jalna.
“For the present juncture with the available materials on record, it is not possible to show any nexus of the appellants who have been proceeded against for their involvement in the Malegaon blast with the two earlier cases, namely, Parbhani and Jalna. There is considerable doubt about their involvement in Parbhani and Jalna and, therefore, they are entitled to their bail applications to be considered on merits,” the Bench said.
The MCOCA charge was added in the case by way of a supplementary chargesheet on April 21, 2011. Thereafter, the investigation was transferred to National Investigation Agency, which has since prosecuted the case.
Examining the scope of Section 21(4)(b) of the MCOCA which requires nexus with the accused of an organised crime syndicate or with the offence in the nature of an organised crime, the Bench failed to find any material as on date to this effect.
The court refrained from giving a clean chit to the accused but maintained that any evidence against the accused under MCOCA was a matter of trial. “Since the occurrence is of the year 2008 and nearly seven years have gone by, it is imperative that the Special Court commences the trial at the earliest and concludes the same expeditiously,” the Bench said.
It directed the Bombay High Court to expeditiously appoint a Special Judge to conduct the trial and allowed the accused, except for Dhawade to apply for bail soon after the appointment of the Special Judge and directed the Special Court to decide the bail petitions preferably within one month.
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