Malegaon Blast Case: All prosecution witnesses examined, now court to record statement of accused

The recording of evidence was completed before a special NIA court here on Thursday in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, in which seven accused, including BJP MP Pragya Thakur, are facing trial under anti-terror law UAPA and the Indian Penal Code.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), represented by special public prosecutors Avinash Rasal and Anushree Rasal filed a pursis a written document before Special Judge AK Lahoti saying it has completed the recording of evidence and no more prosecution witnesses are needed to be examined.

A total of 323 prosecution witnesses were examined over the past five years of which 34 turned hostile.

The court will now hear the statements of the accused under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) which will be followed by recording the statements of defence witnesses and final arguments. The accused have been directed to be present in the court on September 25 for their 313 (CrPC) statements.

Meanwhile, the court has rejected accused Lt Col Prasad Purohit’s plea seeking to recall a witness, saying it won’t be proper to do so on the basis of “unseen, uncertain, and unproduced documents”.

Six people were killed and over 100 injured when an explosive device strapped on a motorcycle went off near a mosque in Malegaon, a town about 200 km from Mumbai in north Maharashtra, on September 29, 2008.

The case was initially probed by the Maharashtra Anti Terror Squad (ATS) before being transferred to NIA 2011.

After taking over the case, the NIA filed a chargesheet in 2016 giving a clean chit to Pragya Thakur and three other accused Shyam Sahu, Praveen Takalki and Shivnarayan Kalsangra saying it found no evidence against them and they should be discharged from the case.

In 2017, the NIA court, however, absolved only Sahu, Kalsangra and Takalki and ruled that Pragya Thakur would have to face the charges. It had also discharged Rakesh Dhawde and Jagdish Mhatre from the case.

At that time, the special court had dropped stringent charges under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against the accused.

The special court had on October 30, 2018, framed charges in the case against seven accused under the stringent sections of the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

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They were facing trial under sections 16 (committing terrorist act) and 18 (conspiring to commit terrorist act) of the UAPA and under IPC sections 120 (b) (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 153 (a) (promoting enmity between two religious groups).

Apart from Purohit and Pragya Thakur, the other accused are Major Ramesh Upadhyay (retired), Ajay Rahirkar, Sudhakar Dwivedi, Sudhakar Chaturvedi and Sameer Kulkarni.

Following the framing of charges, the trial in the case began in 2018 with the examination of the first witness in the case.

During the course of five years, 323 prosecution witnesses were examined of which 34 had turned hostile.

“We have adduced maximum evidence collected by the investigating agency. Now the material will be seen at the time of final arguments,” SPP Avinash Rasal said, on the closing of evidence in the case.

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