Lt Colonel Prasad Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, two of the main accused in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast case, will be tried for committing a terror act as a special NIA court in Mumbai rejected their application for discharge.
The court, however, dropped provisions under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against all the accused.
The court said the accused persons will face trial under sections 16 (committing a terror act) and 18 (criminal conspiracy) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), and sections 120(b) (punishment of criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 326 (intentionally causing harm to others) of the IPC.
Section 16 of the UAP act is punishable with a maximum of death penalty and a minimum of imprisonment for life if the crime results in the death of a person, as it did in this case. The formal framing of charges will be done at the next hearing on January 15.
Apart from Sadhvi and Purohit, the accused who will now face trial in the case are: Sudhakar Dwivedi, retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay, Sameer Kulkarni, Sudhakar Chaturvedi and Ajay Rahirkar. All the accused are currently out on bail.
The court also discharged three accused – Shyam Sahu, Shivnarayan Kalsangra and Praveen Takalki – from all charges. The next date of hearing is January 15.
Six persons were killed and nearly 100 others were injured when a bomb strapped to a motorcycle exploded in Nashik district’s Malegaon, a textile town 270km away from Mumbai, on September 29, 2008.
The court made it clear that Pragya cannot be exonerated of the charges as she was aware about the motorcycle being used for the conspiracy. Sadhvi was arrested in October that year and Lt Col Purohit in November. The two were accused of plotting the blasts as part of a plan by Hindu right wing group, Abhinav Bharat.
In August this year, Lt Col Purohit was granted bail by the Supreme Court after spending nine years in jail. The apex court said there several contradictions in the charge-sheets filed by Maharashtra’s Anti-Terror Squad and the National Investigation Agency, which took over the case in 2011. Sadhvi was also granted bail earlier in the year by the Bombay high court.
Two accused – Jagdish Mhatre and Rakesh Dhawde – will face trial only under the Arms Act, the court said.