Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Lt Col Prasad Purohit and six others accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast will stand trial on stringent terror charges, a special NIA court has ruled in the politically-sensitive case that had raised speculation of saffron militancy.
Earlier, National Investigation Agency had given clean chit to Sadhvi Pragya. Rejecting the pleas of the accused for discharge from the case, the special NIA court, however, dropped some sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against as well as Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against the accused.
The court dismissed NIA’s contention that there was no evidence against Sadhvi Pragya, saying it was difficult to accept the claim given that her motorcycle was used in the blast. “There is evidence to suggest that the accused number one (Thakur) had knowledge about involvement of her motorcycle,” the court said in its ruling on the nine-year-old case that had raised worries of Hindu militancy gaining a foothold as a reaction to Islamic extremism.
The accused will face trial now under Sections 16 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (conspiring for and committing/organising a terror act) and under the Indian Penal Code for criminal conspiracy, murder, attempt to murder and causing hurt besides charges under the Explosive Substances Act and Arms Act. The charges are punishable by various prison terms up to life, and death for murder.
The NIA, while filing a charge-sheet in the case last year, gave a clean chit to Sadhvi Pragya and three others — Shyam Sahu, Praveen Takalki, Shivnarayan Kalsangra — saying it found no evidence against them and they should be discharged from the case.