Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today granted bail to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, accused of plotting the September 2008 Malegaon blast, but rejected the bail plea of co-accused former Lt Col Prasad Purohit saying the charges against him were of grave nature.
The court said prima facie no case was made out against 44-year-old Sadhvi Pragya, who was arrested nine years ago, and asked her to furnish a cash surety of Rs five lakh and surrender her passport to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
"Prima facie there is no case made out against Sadhvi. But there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusations made against Purohit are prima facie true," a division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi said. It also directed her not to tamper with the evidence and to report to the NIA court as and when required. Six persons were killed and nearly 100 others injured when a bomb strapped to a motorcycle had exploded in Malegaon town of Nashik district on September 29, 2008. Sadhvi Pragya and 44-year-old Purohit were arrested in 2008. While Sadhvi Pragya, who is suffering from cancer, is undergoing treatment a Madhya Pradesh hospital, Purohit is lodged in Taloja jail in Maharashtra.
The NIA, which was handed over the probe from ATS, had given a clean chit to Sadhvi Pragya and told the high court that it had no objection if she was released on bail. The agency had, however, opposed Purohit's bail plea.
"In our considered opinion, if both the reports of ATS and NIA are considered conjointly, so far as Sadhvi is concerned, it cannot be said that there are reasonable grounds for believing that accusations made against her are prima facie true," the judges observed.
"Once it is held so, then the benefit of bail cannot be withheld to the appellant, even if the offences alleged against her by ATS are grave and serious ones," they said. The court, in their 78-page order on Sadhvi's plea, said the accused is a woman who is languishing in jail since 2008 and is suffering from cancer.
While rejecting Purohit's plea, the court said, "In our considered opinion, there is, prima facie, more than sufficient material on record against Purohit so as to hold that there are reasonable grounds for believing that accusations made against him are prima facie true."
The bench noted that the charges levelled against Purohit are of serious and grave nature. "It is of waging war against the integrity and unity of the state and, that too, by violent means like exploding the bomb, so as to create terror in the minds of the people," the judges said.
Referring to the report (charge sheet) filed by the NIA, they said, "Purohit was the one who prepared a separate 'Constitution' for 'Hindu Rashtra' with a separate saffron colour flag. He also discussed about taking revenge for the atrocities committed by the Muslims on Hindus."
The HC refused to accept Purohit's contention that he had attended the meetings as part of a "covert military intelligence operation."
The court pointed out the statements of the witnesses that it was Purohit, who said their right-wing group Abhinav Bharat should not be just a political party but should work as an organisation of extremists, having the capacity to eliminate persons opposing the same.2)