Monday, July 19, 2010

HC restores MCOCA in Malegaon blast case

Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Lt Col Prasad Purohit and nine other accused would have to face charges under the stringent anti-gangster law MCOCA for the Malegaon blasts conspiracy, the Bombay High Court ruled on Monday. A division bench of Justice BH Marlapalle and Justice Anoop Mohta said that the trial judge had erred in dropping MCOCA charges against the accused.

“We are yet to see the copy of the judgement but will definitely challenge the verdict before the Supreme Court,” said advocate Ganesh Sovani, counsel for Sadhvi Pragya Singh.

The verdict comes as a shot in the arm for the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) as the high court has held that the agency had followed proper procedures while applying the law. The Sadhvi, Lt Col Purohit and others were booked for the Malegaon blast on September 29, 2008, that killed six persons and injured 101 others.

The high court rejected the defence plea to go into the merits of the Malegaon case, saying that such an application would have to be taken up first before the trial court so that the prosecution got a chance to respond. The judges restricted themselves to a technical question, whether the courts had “taken cognisance” or “taken note” of the Parbhani and Jalna blasts cases against one of the accused Rakesh Dhawade.

The law says MCOCA can be invoked against a group of accused — an organised syndicate — if any one of them has two previous charge sheets in the last 10 years for crimes which are punishable with more than three years’ imprisonment. In the present case, that person is Rakesh Dhawade, who the police had booked for the blasts at Parbhani in 2003 and another in Jalna in 2004. Dhawade was arrested only in November 2, 2008.

Special MCOCA judge last year ruled that courts had not take “cognisance” of the Parbhani and Jalna blasts cases against Dhawade as on November 20, 2008, when MCOCA charges were approved against the 11 accused. Consequently, MCOCA charges were not valid against Dhawade and by extension the other accused. The court also said that the sanction from the government to prosecute the accused for promoting enmity between communities (section 153-A of the IPC) had not been obtained.

The trial court then went on to discharge the 11 accused in the MCOCA case and said they would only face murder and other charges under the Indian Penal Code. Army all set to sack blast accused
New Delhi: The Army seems all set to sack Lt-Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit, who was arrested in November 2008 by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in connection with the Malegaon blasts. Defence ministry sources said the services of Lt-Col Purohit, who apparently even wrote to defence minister AK Antony to profess his innocence, are likely to be terminated in accordance with the recommendation of the court of inquiry against him conducted under the Lucknowbased Central Army Command. “Purohit’s case is being processed by the defence ministry at present,” said a source. TNN

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