New Delhi: Retired army officer Shrikant Prasad Purohit, or Colonel Purohit, the main accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case, was on Monday granted bail by the Supreme Court after nearly nine years in jail. The bench said they were setting aside the Bombay High Court order by which bail was denied. The apex court also said it has imposed certain conditions on Purohit while granting bail.
Let’s take a look at the timeline of events:
November 4, 2008: Lt Colonel Shrikant Purhoit, a serving Army officer, is arrested by the Maharashtra ATS for his involvement in the September 2008 Malegaon blasts.
Investigations by the ATS reveal that several accused in the case may have been involved in other acyts of terrorism including the Modasa blast in Gujarat, 2006 Malegaon blast, 2007 Mecca Masjid blast in Hyderabad and the 2007 Samjhauta Express blast.
The accused were subsequently booked under the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA), which requires the court to take cognizance of two previous charge sheets against one or more of the accused.
2009: 14 people, including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Lt Colonel Purohit, named by the ATS as key conspirators in the case. Investigations revealed that the blast was allegedly carried out by right-wing group Abhinav Bharat.
July 2009: The MCOCA charges were dropped on the grounds that when the charge sheet was filed for the 2008 Malegaon blast, the cognizance of the accused was not taken in the other cases.
2010: Bombay HC restores the MCOCA charges against the accused
2011: NIA takes charges of the case
2011: During a 2008 meeting, Colonel Purohit brought the idea of forming a central Hindu government, which in exile, should be formed in either Israel or Thailand, said the NIA.
While setting up Abhinav Bharat in 2006, Purohit claimed he was “a farmer despite being a serving commissioned officer in the Indian Army”.
April 15, 2015: Supreme Court sets aside Bombay HC order and drops MCOCA charges. Apex court cites lack of evidence against the accused in the previous cases.
It also asks the Bombay HC order to constitute a special court to begin trials at the earliest.
June 25, 2015: Special Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian claims the NIA had instructed her to “go soft” on the accused
2016: Charges against Pragya Singh Thakur and five others get dropped by the NIA. The agency says it found no evidence against them.
April 2017: Bombay HC grants bail to Pragya Singh Thakur but not to Col Purohit. The ex-Army man moves SC seeking bail.
May 2017: SC seeks response from NIA and Maharashtra government on Lt Colonel’s bail plea.
July 26, 2017: Lt Col Purahoit’s bail plea is opposed by the NIA, which claims that the ex-Army man is the founder of Abhinav Bharat and “collected funds that were used to promote fundamentalism and unlawful acts”.