2008 Malegaon blast: NIA drops charges against Pragya, 4 others

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MUMBAI: The National Investigation Agency on Friday dropped the names of Sadhvi Pragnya Singh Thakur and four others as ‘accused’ in the September 2008 Malegaon blasts case, in its charge sheet filed before a Special Court here.

Stringent charges under MCOCA have been dropped against all accused, citing insufficient evidence.

Apart from Sadhvi Pragya, four more accused, Lokesh Sharma, Shiv Narayan Kalsangra, Shyam Bhavarlal Sahu and Praveen Takkalki were also given clean chits. Another accused Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit has been charged under the anti-terror law UAPA and other provisions of IPC.

The dropping of charges against Pragya sets the stage for her early release from jail. Last month, the NIA said the investigation failed to find substantial evidence that establishes Pragya’s involvement in the blast.

The Congress alleged that accused are being let off lightly because of their links with the central government. Party leader Digvijaya Singh said, “The central government wanted to save Malegaon (blast case) accused as they have connections with them.”

NIA had listed 14 people, including Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit, as an accused in the blasts in Malegaon town in Nashik district on September 29, 2008. Seven people were killed when two bombs planted on a motorcycle exploded.

The probe was initially conducted by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad and later handed over to the NIA.

Besides Purohit, Pragya Singh Thakur, Shivnarayan Kalsangra, Shyam Sahu, Ramesh Upadhya, Sameer Kulkarni, Ajay, Rakesh Dhawade, Jagdish Mhatre, Sudhakar Dwivedi, Sudhakar Chaturvedi and Pravin Takalki were arrested for the blast.

Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange, who are accused in the 2007 Samjhauta train blast as well, were named absconders

The Malegaon 2008 blasts changed the course of many probes, including the Samjhauta Express blast case in which 68 people were killed. For the first time, the role of a Hindu right wing group had come to light in a terror attack. The case was investigated initially by Joint Commissioner of Mumbai ATS Hemant Karkare, who was killed during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Before the NIA took over the case in 2011, Maharashtra ATS had booked 16 people but filed charge sheets against 14 on January 20, 2009 and April 21, 2011.

Purohit and Pragya had moved several applications before Bombay High Court and Supreme Court challenging the charge sheet and applicability of stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in the case.

All through the investigations, the accused denied involvement in the Malegaon twin blasts, and also refuted being co-conspirators in any organised crime syndicate.

 

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