Lt Col Shrikant Purohit’s bail exposes gaps in Malegaon blast case investigations

The apex court has barred him from travelling abroad and asked him to cooperate with probe agencies when required

Verdict: On Monday, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising justices R.K. Agarwal and Abhay Manohar Sapre, granted bail to Lt. Col. Shrikant Purohit, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast in Maharashtra.

The court laid down a few conditions for Purohit’s bail, who was in jail for over eight years. He has been restricted from travelling out of the country and is directed to make himself available for any further investigation/interrogation by NIA when required.

Context: The Anti-Terrorism Squad, Mumbai, arrested Purohit in January 2009 on charges under Indian Penal Code and the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), 1999, a special law to combat organised crime and terrorism. In 2011, the probe was taken over by the National Investigation Agency and in 2015, the apex court had denied him bail since serious charges were made under the MCOCA.

In 2016, the agency in a supplementary chargesheet dropped charges under the MCOCA after which Purohit made a fresh plea for bail in the Supreme Court.

The NIA argued against his bail plea, saying they have preliminary evidence against Purohit. NIA has relied upon the transcription of the conversations of the meetings obtained from the laptop of Swami Amrutanand, another accused in the case.

Questions of law:

1. The only point for consideration before this court is whether in the present facts and circumstances of the case, the Purohit has made out a case for grant of bail or not?
The court said that since the NIA’s supplementary chargesheet is at variance with the one filed by the ATS, the trial is likely to take a long time and given that Purohit has been in prison for about eight years and eight months, he makes a case for granting bail.

Impact: Purohit’s bail order shows that the case’s trajectory has vastly shifted since his arrest. Probe agencies have differed with each other and the inscrutable delay in filing of a comprehensive chargesheet for eight years is hard to explain. Although the court clarified that Purohit’s bail cannot be used to automatically grant bail other accused, the findings of the court will have an impact. The apex court is currently hearing a plea opposing bail granted to Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, another accused in the case.

Reference:

Prasad Shrikant Purohit vs. State of Maharashtra and another (2015) 7 SCC 440

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