New Delhi: Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, was Wednesday fielded by the BJP from the Bhopal seat for the Lok Sabha elections. She will be contesting against Congress veteran and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh.
Although Thakur was given a clean chit in the case by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2016, the following year a Mumbai trial court framed charges against her.
In his December 2017 order, the Mumbai judge had noted that there was sufficient material to frame charges against Thakur.
There “is prima facie case regarding conspiracy against accused No1. (Pragya)… to commit bomb blast at Malegaon”, special judge (NIA and MCOCA) S.D. Tekale had noted.
The 2008 Malegaon blast took place outside a mosque on 29 September, killing six people and injuring several others.
Charges against Thakur
The court charged Thakur and seven others under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), which deal with conspiracy to commit, advocate, incite or knowingly facilitate a terrorist act. The court also charged Thakur for criminal conspiracy under the Explosive Substances Act.
It, however, dropped charges under the more stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), and discharged the accused from sections of the UAPA that directly relate to raising funds for terrorist acts, being members of a terrorist organisation, as well as sections of the Arms Act.
“Cumulative effect of all incriminating circumstances clearly show the strong suspicion against above accused persons i.e. accused No.1 (Pragya), 4, 5, 6, 9, 10 and 11 about their involvement in commission of crime i.e. bomb¬blast at Malegaon,” the court had noted.
What the judge said
Judge Tekale acknowledged there is “no direct evidence regarding discussion of causing bomb blast at Malegaon amongst the accused persons except in Bhopal meeting”. But the court also noted that witnesses had retracted statements in which they said there was a discussion on carrying out a bomb blast at Malegaon in the Bhopal meeting.
However, relying on the top court judgment in the case involving Nalini — she was convicted of assassinating Rajiv Gandhi — the judge said that “conspiracy generally is hatched in private or in secrecy”.
“It is rarely possible to establish a conspiracy by direct evidence. Usually, both i.e. existence of the conspiracy and its objects have to be inferred from the circumstances and the conduct of the accused.”
‘Bomb blast to strike communal terror’
The court also noted that Navratri was set to commence around the time of the blast and hence the “place and time” was chosen to ensure that the blasts “threaten the unity of people by striking terror in particular section of the people”.
“Intention to take revenge of a particular person is one thing and intention to take revenge of people belonging to particular religion or section is other,” the judge said. “The latter shows intention to strike terror in the people or in section of the people by causing indiscriminate killing of persons.”
‘Wanted Hindu Rashtra’
The court also countered Thakur’s defence that she may have said things in the heat of the moment by submitting that the “tone of discussion” proved that the accused “were advocating certain ideology and according to them, one of the ways to implement the said ideology is to create threat against Muslim and Christian”.
The judge took into account the discussion at a meeting by the accused in which Sadhvi Pragya was not present, at Anangpur in Faridabad, which showed their “mindset”.
“Tone of the discussion shows that they want to create Hindu Rashtra excluding the Muslims and Christians. In the said meeting view was expressed to create threat against Muslims and Christians by striking them,” the judge said.
‘Involvement of Sadhvi’s bike’
The court also noted that at the meeting in Bhopal, in which Thakur was present, the accused discussed about “jihadi activities in Aurangabad and Malegaon”, and one of the accused (accused no. 9) sought to prevent it by expanding the “Abhinav Bharat Sanghatan in the said area”.
“On this background there is involvement of LML Freedom motorcycle belonging to accused No.1 Pragya Singh Thakur in the bomb¬blast at Malegaon,” the judge said. “There are also certain statements made by the accused No.9 amounting to extra¬judicial confession and by accused No.1 indicating her knowledge about involvement of her motorcycle in the bomb¬blast.”
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