It was the most controversial case of its time with the arrest of a spiritual godman, a sadhvi and even a serving army official for carrying out blasts in Malegaon in Maharashtra with the aim of sparking communal violence in the country. But that case may be falling apart.
According to an Indian Express report, the case is set to alter drastically with the National Investigation Agency filing a chargesheet on Friday. So what’s going to change from the original allegations?
Sadhvi Pragya Thakur is set to be discharged as an accused completely
On September 29, 2008, a motorcycle laden bomb went off in Malegaon killing seven and injuring more than 70. The motorcycle used to plant the bombs was owned by Sadhvi Pragya Thakur. The Surat-based sadhvi was arrested on October 23, 2008.
She was accused of working with other accused to carry out the blasts and the ATS had said that telephone records showed that she had allegedly spoken with another accused for 400 minutes after the blast, official sources said at the time. Her arrest had proved to crucial in the arrest of other accused in the case like Lt Col Shrikant Purohit and religious leader Dayanand Pandey.
But the NIA is reportedly going to tell a court that the evidence against the sadhvi is too weak, especially now that she is no longer charged under the more stringent Maharashtra Control Of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).
A NIA official quoted in the report says that there was no witness statement recorded as evidence that showed the sadhvi was ever part of the conspiracy meetings.
So why is she being let off?
All the accused in the case had been charged under the law MCOCA, under which a confession given to a police official could be treated as evidence.
However, the Supreme Court dropped all charges under MCOCA against the accused saying that the law was improperly applied. Which means that none of the confessions now have enough value as evidence.
But will the entire case fall through?
Not just yet. According to the report, the NIA still believes that it has a strong case against some of the other accused in the case. An official told the Indian Express that they still have evidence against other accused like Lt Col Shrikant Purohit, despite the fact that the agency believing that the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad had planted evidence against him.
So the allegations of the existence of fringe Hindu terror groups still stands.
So why is this controversial?
- Because the former special prosecutor in the case had alleged earlier that since the Modi government came to power she was told to go slow in the case.
“An NIA officer approached me immediately after the change of government and told me in person to go soft. On June 12, he approached me for the second time and said I would no longer be appearing in the case,” Rohini Salian had told reporters in June last year.
- Because the sadhvi has had vocal supporters like home minister Rajnath Singh
The Congress had accused him of meeting the sadhvi, which he denied. But Rajnath Singh, who was in the opposition at the time had defended Thakur in 2009, saying that she shouldn’t be prosecuted without sufficient evidence proving that she was a terrorist.
“The ongoing talks about narco test and brain mapping proves that the investigating authorities don’t have adequate evidences against her,” Singh had said.
But it’s not just Rajnath Singh. Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti has met her in jail. Many other groups have also been pleading her case, demanding that she be released.
- Because she’s been in jail for the last eight years
The sadhvi has been in jail since 2008 and has had bail applications rejected all the way to the Supreme Court. She has claimed that she was tortured in custody, and was also diagnosed with breast cancer during her stay in jail.
But if she is discharged as an accused, her case will become yet another indicator of the misuse of anti-terror laws like MCOCA, to arrest and keep people in jail for extended periods without sufficient evidence against them.