MUMBAI: With Lt. Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit granted bail by the Supreme Court, almost all the key accused in the Malegaon blast case are out on bail.
While the Bombay High Court granted bail to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur on April 25, 2017, several others were granted bail at different intervals in the past nine years. The other accused, who have not moved bail applications as yet would now do so and will be hopeful after the Supreme Court decision, said Adv. Prashant Magoo, who has represented several of the accused in court.
The incident dates back to September 29, 2008 when two bombs were planted on a motorbike in a busy market area in Malegaon exploded, killing seven people. The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) got its first breakthrough in the case by tracing the motorbike owner. Links given by him led to the arrest of three accused on October 24, 2008.
The ATS arrested Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Shiv Narayan Gopal Singh Kalsanghra, and Shyam Bhawarlal Sahu. Names of organisations such as the Rashtriya Jagran Manch, Sharda Sarvagya Peeth, Hindu Rashtra Sena and Abhinav Bharat came up in the investigation and several people linked to these organisations were arrested.On November 4, 2008, the ATS arrested Lt. Col. Prasad Shrikant Purohit, a serving Army officer, for his involvement.
The first charge sheet was filed by the Maharashtra ATS in the court on January 20, 2009. Initially, the stringent MCOCA was applied to the accused. However, in July 2009, the trial court dropped the MCOCA charges against the accused. In the additional charge sheet filed on April 21, 2011, the ATS added more names and the number of accused reached 16.
The Bombay HC in 2010 restored the charges under MCOCA. But, on April 15, 2015, the Supreme Court set aside the Bombay HC order and dropped the MCOCA charges, stating there was hardly any evidence against the accused in the previous cases.
In 2016, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) dropped charges against Sadhvi Pragya and five others, saying there was insufficient evidence to prosecute them. Names of two other accused, Lokesh Sharma and Dhan Sing, too appear to have been dropped from the chargesheet.
With Purohit’s bail, now, seven of the 14 accused; Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Shivnarayan Kalsangra, Shyam Sahu, Pravin Takalgi, Ajay Rahirkar and Jagdish Mhatreare out on bail.
Two accused, Ramji Kalsangra and Sandip Dange are said to be absconding. However, according to retired ATS officials, they were allegedly killed by the ATS in 2008. Ramesh Upadhyaya, Samir Kulkarni, Rakesh Dhawade, Sudhakar Dwivedi and Sudhakar Chaturvedi are the accused who are yet to get bail in the case.