Malegaon blast: SC asks Purohit to challenge prosecution sanction in trial court

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NEW DEHLI: In a relief to Malegaon blast accused Lt Col Shrikant Purohit, the Supreme Court Friday clarified its order and granted him liberty to raise the issue of grant of sanction to prosecute him under the stringent UAPA at the time of framing of charges.
The apex court, while granting bail to Purohit on August 21 last year, had said the issue of grant of prosecution sanction could be raised at the time of trial.
“We clarify that the observation be taken in a context that the issue of prosecution sanction can be raised and considered at the time of framing of charges,” a bench of Justices R K Agrawal and A M Sapre said.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Purohit, said an observation in the last year’s bail order of the apex court has been construed as that the issue of prosecution sanction be raised and considered at the time of trial.
He sought a clarification of order saying this was the substantial question of law and Purohit should be allowed to raise the issue at the time of framing of charges itself.
On January 18, Purohit had moved the top court challenging the Bombay High Court order dismissing his plea challenging the sanction granted by the Maharashtra government to prosecute him under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
The high court had on December 18 last year dismissed his plea saying the issue of grant of prosecution sanction under the UAPA, could be raised at the time of trial.
Purohit had told the high court that under the UAPA, the sanctioning authority has to seek a report from an appropriate authority. He had contended that the sanction was given in January 2009 when no sanctioning authority was holding the post.
Six persons were killed and 101 were injured when an improvised explosive device strapped on a motorcycle went off at Malegaon, a town with a sizeable Muslim population in north Maharashtra’s Nashik district, on September 29, 2008.
On December 27 last year, a special NIA court had dismissed the pleas filed by Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and six others accused seeking their discharge from the case.
The court had said that charges would be framed later against Thakur, Purohit, Sudhakar Dwivedi, Major (Retd) Ramesh Upadhyay, Sameer Kulkarni, Sudhakar Chaturvedi and Ajay Rahirkar.
The NIA had earlier given a clean chit to Sadhvi Pragya saying there was not enough evidence against her in the case. The court had rejected the agency’s submission saying it was difficult to accept the claim, given that her motorcycle was used in the blast.
If the charges are framed, then Purohit and others would face trial under sections 16 and 18 of the UAPA which relates to conspiracy for committing a terror act and under the provisions of the IPC for criminal conspiracy, murder, attempt to murder and causing hurt besides charges under the Explosive Substances Act and the Arms Act.
The charges are punishable by various prison terms up to death and life imprisonment.
The Anti-Terrorism Squad of the Maharashtra police, which probed the case, had initially charged Thakur, Purohit, Sudhakar Dwivedi, Ramesh Upadhyay, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, Jagdish Mhatre, Rakesh Dhawade, Ajay Rahirkar, Samir Kulkarni, Shyam Sahu, Shivnarayan Kalsangra, Pravin Mutalik and Ramchandra Kalsangra.
Thakur and Purohit were arrested the same year along with nine others for the blast conspiracy.
On August 21, last year, the apex court had granted bail to Purohit, who had been languishing in jail for almost nine years for his alleged role in the case, observing there were contradictions in the charge sheets filed by different investigating agencies.