Mumbai: The Special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) Court on Monday discharged all the eight Muslim accused who were chargesheeted in the 2006 Malegaon serial blast case, defence lawyer said while talking to ummid.com.
"The accused were discharged by V V Patil, Designated Judge of Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court. The judge pronounced the verdict Monday on the discharge application filed by the Muslim men accused of the September 2006 Malegaon blasts", Advocate Shahid Nadeem Ansari said while talking to ummid.com.
The accused against whom the charges have been dropped have spent five years in jail.
Charges against eight Muslim youths were dropped by the special court in Mumbai due to lack of evidence against them. The judge said that he was accepting the discharge application filed by the eight accused as there was no evidence to prove their guilt.
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.
Shabbir Ahmed - one of the accused in the case had died in an accident few months ago.
A series of blasts took place inside the Malegaon Bada Qabristan and at Mushawerat Chowk - some 500 mtrs away from the Qabristan, a little after Friday special prayers which coincided with Shabe Barast.
In the last hearing on April 12, NIA counsel Prakash Shetty had told the court during arguments on the application that the central agency opposed the plea to discharge the accused at this stage. This was a change from the earlier stand of the NIA, which in a reply filed to this application in 2014, had questioned the ATS case against the nine accused.
Earlier, 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, had 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.
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.