Court upholds charges against Malegaon accused under stringent law (Lead)

January 22nd, 2009 - 5:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Jan 22 (IANS) A special court here Thursday upheld the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chargesheet against the 11 Malegaon bomb blast accused, slapping on them charges under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). The defence lawyers said they will challenge the ruling in the Bombay High Court.

Special MCOCA Judge Y.D. Shinde’s ruling came after two days of arguments against the charges by the defence lawyers.

Judge Shinde held that the evidence submitted by the Mumbai Police ATS were sufficient to invoke the provisions of MCOCA against the accused.

Among other things, they argued that the prosecution’s contentions on invoking the stringent MCOCA against the accused were “flawed” and some of points were raised as an “afterthought”.

Ganesh Sovani, one of the defence lawyers, told IANS that the defence will challenge the ruling before the Bombay High Court within a fortnight after getting a certified copy of the order.

On Tuesday, the ATS had filed the charge sheet against the 11 accused - Sadhvi Pragnya Singh Thakur, Lt. Col. Prasad S. Purohit, Rakesh Dhawade, Swami Amritanand alias Dayanand Pandey, former armyman Ramesh Upadhyay, Jagdish Mhatre, Ajay Rahirkar, Shyamlal Bhanwarlal Sahu, Shivnarain Singh Kalsangra, Samir Kulkarni and Sudhakar Chaturvedi.

The chargesheet was filed in the shadow of the death of former ATS chief Hemant Karkare who had been directing the investigations into the case which came up with sensational results.

Just five days after the 11 accused were slapped with MCOCA charges on Nov 21 last year, Karkare was killed during the Mumbai terror attacks.

On the night of Sep 29, 2008, a bomb planted on a scooter went off in the busy market area of Malegaon, Maharashtra, killing six and injuring 10 others.

The ATS investigations into the case revealed the involvement of self-styled Hindu religious leaders, a serving army officer and a retired army officer, and activists of a Hindu radical organisation.

The scooter’s origins and ownership were traced to Sadhvi Pragnya, who was picked up from Surat in Gujarat and arrested Oct 23. Other accused were later arrested from different parts of the country.

The ATS’s painstaking probe also found that meetings were held in different cities like Pune and Bhopal to plan out the Malegaon blast and RDX was smuggled by Purohit from Jammu and Kashmir and was stored in Pune, and the involvement of a low-profile Hindu rightwing organisation, Abhinav Bharat.

The ATS’s chargesheet, running into more than 4,250 pages, has names of over 450 witnesses who shall be examined by the prosecution during the trial.

However, the probe will still continue as the ATS is on the lookout for two or three accused who are absconding, including Ramji, the man who is believed to have planted the bomb.

Five of the 11 accused - Sadhvi Pragnya, Purohit, Rahirkar, Kalsangra and Sahu - whose police custody ended last Tuesday had filed applications for bail, which Judge Shinde will hear Jan 30.

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