Nine years ago, the arrest of Lt Col Shrikant Prasad Purohit rattled the nation as it was the first time that an Armyman had been booked for a terror act.

The Supreme Court on Monday granted conditional bail to Purohit, the main accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case, after nearly nine years in jail.

A bench of Justices R K Agrawal and A M Sapre said they are setting aside the Bombay High Court order by which the bail was denied. The apex court said it has imposed certain conditions on Purohit while granting bail.

On August 17, Purohit had told the apex court that he has been caught in the “political crossfire” and languishing in jail for nine years. Purohit had moved the apex court challenging the Bombay High Court’s order dismissing his bail plea.

What is the Malegaon case?

Seven people were killed and nearly 80 others were injured when a bomb strapped to a motorcycle exploded in Malegaon on September 29, 2008. Malegaon is a communally-sensitive textile town in Nasik district of north Maharashtra.

b’Source: PTI’

The 4,000-page charge sheet had alleged that Malegaon was selected as the blast target because of a sizeable Muslim population there. It had named Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, Purohit and Swami Dayanand Pandey as the key conspirators. 

However, Thakur was last year given clean chit by the NIA. 

Who is Shrikant Prasad Purohit?

Hailing from a Maharashtrian Brahmin middle class family, Purohit was born to a bank officer in Pune. After completing his education from Pune, he was commissioned into Maratha Light Infantry in 1994 after he cleared out of the Officer’s Training Academy at Chennai. 

He served in the counter-terrorism operations unit in Jammu and Kashmir between 2002-2005, and was later shifted to Military Intelligence due to health reasons, says a report by the Indian Express.

As per his neighbours, Prasad Purohit was a soft-spoken man and superiors in the Army remembered him as a bright, hard-working recruit, says an NDTV report.

Involvement of Abhinav Bharat Trust

Purohit was alleged to be associated with a retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay, who had set up Abhinav Bharat, an extreme right-wing group, believed to be behind the 2008 blasts. The trust though was formed to promote Hindu values but was allegedly a front to carry out attacks against Muslims.

Not just Purohit, Thakur, Pandey and other accused in the Malegaon blast were also members of the Abhinav trust. The chargesheet had alleged that it was Pandey who had instructed Purohit to arrange explosive RDX, following which he stole 60 kg of RDX , some of which was used in the blast. He was also charged with funding and training the group.

b’Malegaon blast site/PTI’

According to the NIA, Purohit held meetings in Faridabad on January 25 and 26, 2008, where the formation of a Hindu Rashtra was discussed. Purohit allegedly read over the constitution of Abhinav Bharat, discussed about the formation of a “Central Hindu government in exile in Israel and Thailand.

What Purohit said in his defence?

Purohit accepted that he had attended meetings of Abhinav Bharat, but said he had acted as an army officer and passed on the information to his senior officers about group’s activities.

Purohit also argued that even assuming that the charges that he had supplied the bomb were true, even then he would have to be out of jail as the offence attracted a maximum of seven years imprisonment.

(With PTI inputs)