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Sadhvi Pragya Thakur Gets Clean Chit in Malegaon Blasts Case, MCOCA dropped

File photo of Pragya Singh Thakur (PTI)

File photo of Pragya Singh Thakur (PTI)

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Arunima

In a major U-turn, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has decided not to name Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur as accused in its chargesheet which is likely to be filed on Friday in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case. The agency has decided to drop charges under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against Thakur.

The NIA's decision has set stage for Sadhvi's early release from jail. Apart from Thakur, MCOCA charges against the other accused including Army officer Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Srikant Purohit are also likely to be dropped.

The accused are likely to be charged under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Charges under UAPA would mean that a lot of evidence which was admissible under MCOCA will have no value now.

Twelve persons, including the Sadhvi and Purohit, were arrested for carrying out a blast at Malegaon, a predominantly Muslim town in north Maharashtra, on September 29, 2008, killing six persons and injuring 100.

The chargesheet is likely to mention that the investigation conducted by former Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare, who was killed in the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, was flawed.

It is also likely to state that the evidence produced against another key accused Lt Col Purohit had been fabricated and statements of witnesses were taken under duress.

The Malegaon blasts case was investigated by two teams of the NIA. The first team was led by IG Sanjeev Singh and the second team was led by IG GP Singh. The team led by Sanjeev Singh was on the verge of filing the chargesheet when the NDA government came to power. They had recorded 164 statements of witnesses and were said to be reaching a conclusion that Thakur and Lt Col Purohit were involved in the Malegaon blast conspiracy.

However, the second team led by GP Singh which investigated the case, re-recorded the 164 statements of the witnesses in which they said they were forced to implicate Thakur and Purohit. The witnesses had said that they wanted to record their statements afresh thereafter which they claimed they were not aware of any conspiracy.

It is on the basis of the statements by the second team that the NIA is likely to have reached the conclusion that the evidence against them is very thin.

However, former home minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram has questioned the NIA's U-turn in the case. "It is strange how in Malegaon case and other such cases of NIA, witnesses are turning hostile," he asserted.


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