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NIA gives clean chit to Sadhvi Pragya, drops MCOCA charges against others too in 2008 Malegaon blast case

The National Investigation Agency on Friday dropped the names of Sadhvi Pragnya Singh Thakur and four others as ‘accused’ in the September 2008 Malegaon blasts case, in its charge sheet filed before a Special Court.

2008 Malegaon blast case-AV

During investigation, “sufficient evidences have not been found against” Pragya Singh Thakur and five others, the NIA said, adding it has submitted in the chargesheet “that the prosecution against them is not maintainable”.

In its chargesheet filed t, the NIA is expected to comment on the investigation by the ATS, which alleged that Lt Col Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya had met Swami Aseemanand , the main accused in the Samjhauta Express blast of 2007, and plotted the Malegaon blasts.

The NIA move will strengthen opposition parties, who repeatedly accuse the NDA government of going slow in cases where Hindu terror suspects are involved.

“The central government wanted to save Malegaon (blast case) accused as they have connections with them,” senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said.

“Even Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) wants to save the people involved in terror activities.”

Minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju dismissed the allegations, saying government does not interfere in the investigation by the agencies. “We allow agencies to work independently,”

Another key accused, Lt. Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit, was charged under the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Indian Penal Code. Purohit was allegedly involved in the setting up of Abhinav Bharat and met some of its members to discuss terror plans.

NIA director general Sharad Kumar said there was no dilution in the case.

“Till our investigation was not complete, we had to go by the probe done by the ATS. Now that we have completed the investigations, we have submitted our final report (chargesheet)”.

The September 2008 blasts in the Muslim-majority Maharashtra town killed seven people. In 2009, the state anti-terrorism squad named 14 people in a chargesheet, including Thakur – who was arrested on charges of being a key conspirator.

The case was handed over to the NIA in 2011 along with six other cases of alleged Hindu terror.

Several such cases – such blasts in Malegaon (September 2006 and September 2008), Samjhauta Express (February 2007) and Mecca Masjid (May 2007) – have been dogged by slow prosecution and hostile witnesses.

Of around a dozen witnesses in the 2008 Malegaon blasts, two retracted their statements five years back. One made a complaint before the Maharashtra human rights commission, alleging coercion. Two more witnesses, Yashpal Bhadana and Dr RP Singh, recently alleged the same in front of a magistrate.

Former NIA prosecutor in the case Rohini Salian had alleged that an officer of the agency asked her to ‘go soft’ on the accused after the NDA came to power.

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