Nagpur/Mumbai: In a major respite to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court has granted her bail on Tuesday in the Malegaon blast case 2008 of 2008.
In September 2008, the bomb blasts had rocked the sleepy town of Malegaon in Nasik District and killed eight and injured 101 persons.
Despicable term “Saffron Terrorism:”
The fact that being a “Sadhvi”, Pragya Singh Thakur wore saffron robes and other accused persons in the case had links with Hindu outfits, gave coinage to the controversial term “saffron” or “Hindu” terror. Her arrest in 2008 and the filing of the first chargesheet by the Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra Police in 2009 has been a matter of heated political and public debate and she was originally dubbed as one of the main accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts.
In January 2013, the then (UPA) Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had claimed that RSS and BJP were promoting ‘Hindu terror’. Interestingly a month later, faced with retaliatory fire from the BJP, Shinde expressed “regret” for his Hindu terror remark.
Under the Congress-led UPA regime, the ATS in Maharashtra and later NIA at the Centre had booked Pragya and others, and kept pressing terror charges against them till UPA exited from power both in the state and at the Centre.
Judicial background of the matter:
The apex court, while hearing a Special Leave Petition in the matter filed by Colonel Purohit, ruled that there was no evidence to charge them under the stringent MCOCA “at this stage”, and therefore their bail plea should be examined afresh by the special trial court.
A bench headed by Justice F M I Kalifulla said there is no reliable material to “prima facie” show that the duo along with four other accused was “criminally liable under the provisions of MCOCA”.
On May 13 2016, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) also filed a supplementary chargesheet that dropped charges under the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA) against Sadhvi Pragya and five others. The NIA found the evidence against her to be the weakest and said the evidence was not substantial. In its supplementary chargesheet, the agency also said that the motorcycle, which was registered in her name, was used by an absconding accused Ramji Kalsangra.
In June 2016, the Special Court at Mumbai, presided over by Judge S.D. Tekale declined to grant bail to Sadhvi Pragya. The bail was also opposed by one Nisar Bilal, who was injured in the blast, who also moved an application to discard the charge sheet filed by the NIA.
Senior Counsel Avinash Gupta Pleaded for Sadhvi Pragya:
Following this rejection of bail, the applicant Sadhvi Pragya had preferred an appeal before the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court. In an interesting move, eminent Criminal Lawyer- Senior Advocate Avinash Gupta has been engaged to represent Sadhvi Pragya along with Advocates S Diwani, Aakash Gupta & V S Uberoi from Nagpur.
The Matter was heard at great length and detail and was fiercely opposed by the kin of the victims, but the evidence on record was surely too short to connect Sadhvi with the crime and thus after suffering arrest and agony of imprisonment for almost 9 years, the High Court granted bail to Sadhvi Pragya on surety of Rs. 5 lakh and directions to deposit her passport.