Noted Criminal Lawyer- Senior Counsel Avinash Gupta engaged to appear for Sadhvi Pragya
Mumbai: In a significant development, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, originally dubbed as one of the main accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts has moved the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court in an appeal after her bail application has been rejected by a National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in June this year.
It may be recalled that in September 2008, the bomb blasts had rocked the sleepy town of Malegaon in Nasik District and killed eight and injured 101 persons.
The fact that being a “Sadhvi”, she 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 charge sheet by the Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra Police in 2009 has been a matter of heated political and public debate.
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.
Later, 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 this year, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) also filed a supplementary charge sheet 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 charge sheet, the agency also said that the motorcycle, which was registered in her name, was used by an absconding accused Ramji.
In June 2016, the Special court at Mumbai, presided over by Judge Shri 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. The application claimed that the charge sheet appears to be politically influenced, and seems to be prepared by the government to help and facilitate the accused persons to come out from jail.
Following this rejection of bail, now the applicant Sadhvi Pragya has preferred an appeal before the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court and the appeal is likely to be heard on Monday. In an interesting move, distinguished Criminal Lawyer- Senior Advocate Avinash Gupta has been engaged to represent Sadhvi Pragya along with Advocate Aakash Gupta from Nagpur.