The Bombay High Court, on Tuesday, granted bail to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Takhur, accused of plotting the 2008 Malegaon blast, but denied any relief to co-accused former Lt Col Prasad Purohit.
The court directed Sadhvi Pragya to surrender her passport to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and not to tamper with the evidence. She has also been asked to report to the NIA court as and when required.
Pragya Singh Thakur is to furnish Rs 5 lakh bail amount and two sureties of same amount, according to the news agency ANI.
#FLASH: Bombay High court grants bail to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur in Malegaon blast case
— ANI (@ANI_news) April 25, 2017
"The appeal filed by Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur is allowed. The applicant (Sadhvi) is directed to be released on bail on a surety of Rs 5 lakh. The appeal filed by Prasad Purohit stands dismissed," said a division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Shalini Phansalkar Joshi.
"We have said in our order that prima facie there is no case made out against Sadhvi," Justice More said while refusing to stay Tuesday's order.
Eight persons were killed and nearly 80 others were injured when a bomb strapped to a motorcycle had exploded in Malegaon on 29 September, 2008.
Sadhvi Pragya and Purohit were arrested in 2008 and are in jail since then.
Welcoming the order, Sadhvi's brother-in-law Bhagwan Jha said the family will celebrate nationwide.
"Finally, we have won. Nine years she was in jail without evidence. Now we will celebrate nationwide," he told reporters outside while distributing chocolates.
The court was hearing the appeals filed by Sadhvi Pragya and Purohit challenging an earlier order of a special court rejecting their bail pleas.
The families of the victims, who had filed an intervening application challenging Sadhvi Pragya's bail plea, on Tuesday, sought from the court a stay on its order so that they can appeal against it in the Supreme Court.
According to the investigating agencies, the blast was allegedly carried out by right-wing group Abhinav Bharat and a total of 11 persons are at present in jail in the case, including Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya.
In her appeal, Sadhvi Pragya argued that the lower court failed to take cognisance of the change in circumstances in her case considering that NIA had declared in its charge sheet that it had not found any evidence against her and that prosecution against her be dropped.
The NIA, which was handed over the case much later, had earlier submitted to the high court that it has "no objections" to Sadhvi's plea.
On 17 April, the NIA told the Supreme Court that there was no need to keep the accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case in police custody, as a charge-sheet has been filed in the matter.
When asked by the court for its opinion, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad had said that the ball was now in the NIA's court and it wasn't the prerogative of the terrorism squad anymore to support or oppose the plea.
The families of some of the victims of the blast argued that the plea be denied for there exist ample evidence in the ATS' charge sheet to establish that Thakur was one of the main conspirators of the blast.
The NIA had opposed Purohit's bail plea and argued that there was prima facie evidence in the form of audio and video recordings, call data records and witness statements that prove his involvement in the case.
According to NIA, Purohit had taken active part in the conspiracy meetings and even agreed to arrange explosives to
be used in the blast.
Purohit had argued that the NIA was "selective" in exonerating some accused persons and that the agency had made him a "scapegoat" in the case.
The probe into the blast has brought into focus the activities of right-wing Hindu groups.
A special court had earlier ruled that the Anti-Terrorist Squad had wrongly applied MCOCA in the case against Pragya, Purohit and nine others.
Last year, in its secondary supplementary charge-sheet, the agency had cited lack of evidence against Sadhvi as the reason, and also stated that the draconian MCOCA was not applicable in the case. Purohit, however, remained a key accused in the case.
The NIA has recommended prosecution against Ramesh Shivaji Upadhyay, Sameer Sharad Kulkarni, Ajay Rahirkar, Rakesh Dhawde, Jagdish Chintaman Mahatre, Prasad Shrikant Puruhit, Sudhakar Dhar Dwivedi, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, Ramchandra Kalsangra (wanted) and Sandeep Dange (wanted) under the Indian Penal Code, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Arms Act and the Explosives Substances Act.
With inputs from PTI
Published Date: Apr 25, 2017 11:50 am | Updated Date: Apr 25, 2017 01:07 pm