[Former Home Minister Shivraj Patil visiting Bada Qabristan A blast at this place on September 08, 2006 had killed more than 30. (ummid.com file photo)]
Mumbai: Bringing forth fresh doubts over Maharashtra ATS probe, Adv. Sanjiv Punalekar, the lawyer representing some of the Hindu accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case, on Friday said that the Muslim men arrested in the 2006 Malegaon blasts case were innocent and they were wrongly implicated by the ATS in the case.
"Sadhvi Pragaya Singh Thakur, Col. Purohit and Chaturvedi, all of them were tortured. And, the set of officers who tortured them, whether it was Rajan Ghule or Arun Khanvilkar or Sachin Kadam, were the same officers who had tortured Santosh Bagade, and the same people are coming in the 2006 blast.
"So, I have no hesitation in saying that in the 2006 Malegaon case, those nine Muslims were innocent and were implicated", he said while talking to news agency ANI.
The nine Muslims - Noorul Huda, Shabbir Ahmed, Raees Ahmed, Salman Farsi, Farogh Magdumi, Shaikh Mohammed Ali, Asif Khan, Mohammed Zahid and Abrar Ahmed - were arrested in 2006 for the Malegaon blasts that killed 37 and injured over 100. In November 2011, they were granted bail.
Stressing that the NIA and ATS both are at fault in the case, Punalekar further said, "The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has also played a role in that, so I am totally opposed to the faulty decision of the NIA and the ATS."
He also claimed that former ATS chiefs Raghuvanshi had acted as scourge of the political masters and demanded action against him.
"Hemant Karkare and Raghuvanshi were acting as scourges of the political masters. They allowed their positions to be misused. So, as on date Raghuvanshi may be defending, but these officers are to be punished and they should be punished very severely," Punalekar told ANI.
Punanalekar also demanded discilinary action NIA officers.
"NIA officers, whether it is Sharad Kumar or Arvind Digvijay Negi, these are the people who are very much in service, why disciplinary action was not taken against them," he sought to know.
"If they had allowed themselves to be misused by the Congress Party, then they should be dismissed from the service. As on date, both the BJP and the Congress are playing politics, which is a frank opinion of the accused, who were trapped in the 2006 and 2008 Malegaon blasts," he said.
2008 Malegaon blast was the first case where a "Hindu terror group" had been named. It pertains to a blast that took place in Bhikku Chowk, Malegaon, Maharashtra, on September 29, 2008, leaving four dead and injuring more than 70 people.
The case was first investigated by the Maharashtra Anti-terrorism Squad under the late Hemant Karkare. The trail led first to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur after a golden LML Freedom bike parked outside the blast site was found to have been allegedly registered under her name. Her arrest was followed by the arrest of Colonel Purohit, who was alleged to have provided the RDX for the blasts, and retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay.
The NIA took over the case on the direction of Home Ministry on April 13, 2011. Fourteen people were chargesheeted in the case including Pragya Singh Thakur, Major Ramesh Upadhyay, Lt Col Prasad Purohit, Sameer Kulkarni, Rakesh Dhawade, Sudhakar Dwivedi aka Dayanand Pandey, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, Pravin Takalki, Shivnarayan Kalsangra, Shyam Sahu, Ajay Rahirkar, Jagdish Mhatre. Two accused – Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange – are still absconding.
Adv. Punalkear had raised similar points earlier too.
“They follow different standards for different sets of accused," said Sanjiv Punalekar, who appears for Sudhakar Dwivedi and Pravin Takalki.
"They have been dishonest throughout. We are being used to politically please the government", Punalekar has been quoted as saying by Mumbai Mirror.