In a major relief for Lieutenant-Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit, the Supreme Court, on Friday, ruled that Purohit can challenge the charges registered against him under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) before the trial commences, according to media reports.
The court was hearing Purohit's petition challenging the prosecution sanction for his trial under the UAPA. Purohit, a former Indian Army officer, is accused of involvement in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast case.
According to CNN-News18, the Bombay High Court in December 2017 had said that Purohit could challenge the validity of the charges only at the stage of trial, allowing for the former Indian Army officer to be sent for trial under the UAPA charges.
The apex court, however, clarified that the trial court, before framing charges, at the time of framing charges, must examine whether Purohit should be tried under the UAPA or not. This allows for the possibility that Purohit may be able to avoid being tried under the UAPA charges.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Purohit, told the Supreme Court that while granting bail to the former Indian Army officer last year, the court had observed that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) did not have sufficient evidence against Purohit to justify the terror charges, CNN-News18 reported.
Agreeing with Salve, the apex court arrived at its decision to allow Purohit to challenge the charges before the trial begins.
The Supreme Court in January had sought the Maharashtra government's response on Purohit's plea.
In the plea, Purohit had challenged the proceedings against him under the UAPA by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in the absence of valid sanction from the competent authority.
Seeking a response from the Maharashtra government, the bench of Justice RK Agrawal and Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre had declined to interfere with the trial court's proceedings in the matter.
Earlier, the Bombay High Court had dismissed Purohit's plea.
The trial court in its 27 December 2017 order, while discharging Purohit of the offences under the MCOC Act and the offences punishable under certain provisions of the UAPA, had decided to proceed against him under other provisions of the UAPA.
Purohit, however, has contended that proceedings against him are in the absence of valid sanction from the competent authorities, and are thus a miscarriage of justice and bad in law.
Section 45(1) and (2) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 say that no court will take cognizance of any offence without the previous sanction of the central government or any officer authorised by the central government in its behalf.
The offences for which prior sanction is required under said provisions include being a member of an unlawful association, punishment for terrorist activities and offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation or supporting it.
Seven people were killed in a bomb blast on 29 September 2008, at Malegaon, a communally sensitive textile town in Nashik district of north Maharashtra.
Although the case initially made headlines as the first case of saffron terrorism, it remained in public discourse also because of military's role in the matter after Purohit's arrest.
With inputs from IANS
Updated Date: Apr 20, 2018 14:52 PM