NIA proposes to drop MCOCA charges against Malegaon blast accused

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Aftermath A cycle stand in Malegaon after the blasts
Aftermath A cycle stand in Malegaon after the blasts. File Photo

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) proposes to drop Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) charges against 11 accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case.

The agency has also sought to postpone framing of charges against the accused, including Lt Col Srikant Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, until it receives an opinion from Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi on the proposal. The duo were given time till 15 February by the special NIA court at Mumbai.

NIA special public prosecutor Avinash Rasal told ET, “The NIA has sought adjournment since legal opinion is awaited. The court has been given time till 15 February.”

Another ground for revoking MCOCA, officials said was the rejection of 24 bail applications of the accused by the court from September last to January 2016. The NIA court has relied on the’ transcripts of meetings attended by Sadhvi and Purohit before the blasts on September 29, 2008. As per legal experts, the transcripts are admissible under MCOCA and once MCOCA is dropped, the recordings will be like any other evidence.

The decision to water-down the charges against Purohit, Pragya and eight others were taken on the advice given by the NIA legal advisory board. Purohit’s lawyer, Neela Gokhale said, “We have challenged the NIA special court’s ruling on transcripts before the Bombay HC and the matter is likely to come up for hearing on February 8.”

Gokhale added there has been a delay in start of the trial and even after SC judgement in April last year; it took Centre six months to appoint a judge. “Purohit and others have been languishing in jail for past seven years sans a trial. The court of inquiry records states Purohit kept his seniors in the loop and it was only due to political reasons he was implicated,” she added.

The high profile case involving Hindu extremists took a dramatic turn last year when former special public prosecutor of NIA Rohini Salian alleged that the agency asked her to go soft” after the NDA government came to power.