COMING down heavily on the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for not investigating the role of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case and recording again the statements of witnesses recorded by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), a special court Tuesday observed there were reasonable grounds to believe that the charges against her were prima facie true and rejected her bail plea.
In its chargesheet, the NIA had said there was no case made out against Sadhvi Pragya.
Seven people were killed in the blast at Malegaon on September 29, 2008. Sadhvi Pragya was charged in 2009 by the ATS which said it was her motorcycle that was used to plant the bomb.
On Tuesday, Special Judge S D Tekale said Sadhvi Pragya “cannot avoid her connection with the motorcycle” registered in her name and used in the blast.
The NIA and the ATS both agreed that the LML Freedom motorcycle used in the blast was registered in her name. But in its supplementary chargesheet on May 13, the NIA said the motorcycle was in the possession of absconding accused Ramchandra Kalsangra, and was being used by him long before the blast.
The court ruled that at this prima facie stage, the fact of the ownership of the motorcycle cannot be ignored.
According to the order, a witness statement shows that Sadhvi Pragya knew of Kalsangra’s role in the blast. “…applicant made inquiry with Ramji as to how there were less casualties though her vehicle was used for causing blast and then Ramji said the reason.” This, the judge said, was evidence of Thakur’s “complicity” with Kalsangra in executing the blast.
Judge Tekale observed that though objections had been raised on relying on this statement of the witness since he had said in an Indore court that he was detained and tortured by the ATS, his statement, however, was relied upon by the trial court and the Bombay High Court when they rejected Sadhvi Pragya’s bail on previous occasions.
The judge also rejected grounds of ill-health and incarceration for over seven years as reasons for granting bail. The court said these grounds were raised during previous bail pleas but were rejected.
The court relied on the ATS investigation though the NIA chargesheet had called it “dubious”.
“…Considering both the reports, that is report of NIA as well as ATS, it cannot be said that due to filing of further report by NIA, there is any change in the circumstance so as to say that there is no reasonable ground for believing that accusation against the applicant is prima facie true,” the order stated.
Sadhvi Pragya’s bail plea, it said, cannot be accepted merely on the ground that the NIA had given its no-objection to grant of bail.
She is currently lodged in a hospital in Madhya Pradesh where she is in judicial custody in connection with the Sunil Joshi murder case. Her brother-in-law, Bhagwan Jha, present in the courtroom in Mumbai, said an appeal against the rejection of bail by the special court would be filed. The NIA’s no-objection to the bail application filed by Sadhvi Pragya, he said, had raised the family’s hopes that she would be granted bail.
Tuesday’s order may also affect hearings of bail applications filed by other accused in the case, including Praveen Takkalki who was also given a similar clean-chit by the NIA in its chargesheet.
The court’s reliance on confessional statements in considering merits of the bail application despite the NIA contention that the MCOCA charge does not apply in the case could also affect the other accused. In its chargesheet, the NIA had discarded the ATS evidence, claiming that confessional statements cannot be used since charges under MCOCA had been dropped.
The evidence against Sadhvi Pragya in these statements includes one of the accused stating that she had requested accused Prasad Purohit to provide explosives, and that RDX was handed over to Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange, “Pragya’s men”, who carried out the blast in Malegaon.