NIA court drops MCOCA charges against Col Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya, 2 others

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The discrepancies in the anti-terrorism squad's (ATS) investigation into the 2008 Malegaon blast case led to the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) charges being dropped, the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court hinted on Wednesday. Sadhvi Pragya and Purohit, both 44, were arrested the same year, accused of planning the blasts. The court also said the UAPA sections 17, 20 and 23 have been dropped against all accused. However, we are unhappy about the framing of charges under MCOCA and other Acts against some of the accused.

"The fact that the court did not exonerate Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur despite the NIA giving her a clean chit is a validation of our probe".

A Special NIA court on September 19 granted bail to Sudhakar Chaturvedi and Suhakar Dwivedi, two prime accused in the blast case, on grounds of parity.

The NIA, while not objecting the bail of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, opposed Purohit's bail plea and argued that there was prima facie evidence in the form of audio and video recordings, call data records and witness statements that prove his involvement in the case.

Under the MCOCA, an accused can not obtain bail easily.

The court will, however, frame charges against the accused under sections of the UAPA that deal with punishment for conspiracy to commit, advocate, incite or knowingly facilitate a terrorist act. There is also no material to show that during that period Dhawde, or any other accused in those cases had any connection with present accused persons at that time. NIA recommends charges against her are dropped. Over a hundred others were injured in the blast in the town with a sizable minority population.

The NIA, had in their charge sheet, raised questions on how MCOCA was invoked by ATS in the case.

Purohit was arrested On November 4, 2008, and the Maharashtra ATS investigation revealed that he might have been allegedly involved in other attacks such as the Malegaon blast of 2006, the Mecca Masjid blast in Hyderabad in 2007, the Samjhauta Express blast on February 18, 2007.

The investigators had charge sheeted 14 accused in the case, including two - Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange - who are absconding. They remain key accused and would face anti-terror trial.