Malegaon blast accused booked under stringent law (Second Lead)

November 20th, 2008 - 10:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Nov 20 (IANS) Denying that they were acting under any political pressure, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) Thursday booked all the 10 accused in the Malegaon blast under a stringent law that will allow the authorities to keep them in detention for six months before filing a charge sheet. The accused charged under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) include Sadhvi Pragnya Chandrapal Singh Thakur and a serving army officer, Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit, Joint Police Commissioner (ATS) Hemant Karkare said here Thursday evening.

Karkare told media persons that the investigations into the Sep 29 Malegaon blast, which left six dead and 20 injured, are in the final stage of completion.

Stoutly denying that the agency was acting under “political pressure”, Karkare said the ATS has gathered “solid evidence” to invoke MCOCA against the accused, and added that the tentacles of the blast conspiracy are spread across several states.

Under MCOCA, the ATS will get six months’ time to file a charge sheet against the accused, as compared to 90 days in the normal criminal laws.

If found guilty under MCOCA, the accused face a minimum of five years’ imprisonment and a maximum of life term.

Besides the MCOCA Section 3, alongwith sub-sections 1, 2 and 4, the ATS has already charged the accused under various Indian Penal Code Sections of 120(B) amounting to criminal conspiracy, 207 which relates to attempt to murder and 302 for murder.

In addition, they have been booked under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Explosives Act.

However, the provision of waging war against the nation has not yet been applied in their case.

An ATS official told IANS later in the evening that within a couple of days all the accused, who are under custody till Nov 29 on the orders of the Nashik Sessions Court, will be produced before a special MCOCA Court in Mumbai.

The relevant papers for this would be submitted before the chief judicial magistrate in Nashik Friday, the official said.

In a related development, the ATS has found a video which shows Sadhvi Pragnya, self-styled spiritual guru Dayanand Pandey and Sameer Kulkarni, leader of the Madhya Pradesh-based radical Hindu group Abhinav Bharat together on stage.

The trio is currently under arrest and in judicial custody in Nashik for their suspected involvement in the Malegaon blast.

The video was shot on April 12, 2008, in Bhopal at a function organised by Kulkarni and Abhinav Bharat president Himani Savarkar, who is daughter-in-law of the late Hindutva ideologue and freedom fighter Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who was better known as Veer Savarkar.

Earlier Thursday afternoon, a Shiv Sena woman activist, Shilpa Deshmukh, filed a public interest petition in the Bombay High Court seeking transfer of the Malegaon blast investigations to the State Crime Investigation Department (CID).

Among other things, she has accused the ATS of “abuse and misuse” of its authority in the blast investigations.

Soon after the ATS chief’s announcement of slapping MCOCA on the Malegaon accused, a group of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists staged a demonstration outside Andheri station in the evening, expressing support for Sadhvi Pragnya. They also raised slogans against the ATS.

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