Mumbai, May 13 (IANS) The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday gave a clean chit to Malegaon blast key accused Sadhvi Pragnya Singh Thakur and five others and dropped terror charges against them thus paving the way for their early release from prison.
The September 2008 Malegaon bombing at the predominantly Muslim town of Maharashtra had brought to fore the so-called “right-wing terror” in which most of the accused were linked to Hindutva groups.
But the NIA in its supplementary charges filed before a special court here decided to drop terror charges under the dreaded Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against all the accused, an official said.
The accused given clean chit include the Sadhvi, Shiv Narain Kalsangra, Shyam Bhavarlal Sahu, Pravin Takkalki alias Mutalik, Lokesh Sharma and Dhan Singh Choudhury.
“During investigations, sufficient evidences have not been found against (the accused) and the NIA has submitted in the final report that the prosecution against them is not maintainable,” the agency said, adding that no offence was established under the MCOCA in this case.
The premier terror probe agency did not rely on the confessionals recorded under the dreaded law conducted by the Mumbai Anti-Terror Squad (ATS).
The Sadhvi’s lawyer Sanjiv Punalekar told IANS that the NIA had decided to drop charges against his client due to lack of sufficient evidences against her.
“The charges against the six accused have been dropped while the charge sheet is being filed against the other remaining accused in the case,” Punalekar told IANS.
The six accused were likely to be released from prisons soon, he told reporters outside the NIA court.
On September 29, 2008, a powerful bomb planted on a parked motorcycle exploded in Malegaon of Nashik district, killing seven people and injuring 80 others.
It was later touted as the first terror case involving the hitherto unknown “Hindu extremists” and was initially investigated by police and thereafter the ATS. The case finally went the NIA which was formed in 2009, months after the November 16, 2008, Mumbai terror attack.
NIA took charge of the Malegaon case in view of its nationwide ramifications.
The case was earlier investigated by the then ATS chief Hemant Karkare, who was killed in the Mumbai terror attack. The Karkare-led ATS named 14 accused including Sadhvi, Sahu, Kalsangra, Mutalik, Lt. Col. Prasad S. Purohit, Ramesh Upadhyay, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, Sameer Kulkarni, Rakesh Dhavade, Jagdish Mhatre, Sudhakar Dwivedi alias Dayanand Pandey and Ajay R. Rahirkar in the case.
Two others — Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange, who are accused also in the Samjhauta Express blast of 2007 — were shown as “absconders”.
The NIA earlier also maintained the list of the accused before dropping the charges against them recently.