The HC directed her to submit a surety of Rs 5 lakh and hand over her passport to the NIA court.
Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Tuesday granted bail to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur (44) — an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case in which she was chargesheeted by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in 2009 — due to lack of evidence. While granting bail, the HC observed that “prima facie there is no case made out against her on the grounds of which the court could deny bail”.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which took over the case from the ATS, had given Thakur — who is currently in judicial custody in Bhopal — a clean chit in 2016 on the grounds of weak evidence against her. The HC directed her to submit a surety of Rs 5 lakh and hand over her passport to the NIA court. The court also directed her not to damage any evidence or threaten any witness while out on bail. The court told her to remain present as and when NIA court required it.
“It cannot be said that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusations made against her are prima facie true. Once it is held so, then the benefit of bail cannot be withheld to the appellant, even if the offences alleged against her by ATS are grave and serious,” the court said.
While granting bail to Thakur, the court considered that she has been suffering from breast cancer. The court also noted that she had been in custody for the last eight years and she could not even walk without the supports of others. “Two witnesses, who have not yet retracted their statements recorded by the ATS, did not disclose any objectionable and incriminating material against the sadhvi,” the judges said.
Welcoming the order, Thakur’s brother-in-law, Bhagwan Jha, said, “We are happy that sadhviji has got bail today. I would say that truth has won. The previous government had falsely implicated and tortured her. She is a nationalist and would never be engaged in anti-national activities”.
The NIA, while giving Thakur a clean chit last year, had pointed out that the only material evidence against her in the case was the motorbike on which the explosive device was strapped. Though the vehicle was in her name, it was being used by the absconding alleged bomb planter, Ramchandra Kalsangra, for two years prior to the blast.
A division bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice Shalini Phansalkar Joshi was hearing the bail appeal filed by Thakur after a special NIA court on June 2016 rejected her bail application. After the high court gave a long hearing to Thakur and the NIA, arguments concluded on February 20 and the matter was reserved. Thakur in her appeal stated that she had got a clean chit from NIA and the agency had removed the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999 (MCOCA) charges against her. She also argued that there is no evidence to show her involvement in the blast.
The blast occurred opposite Shakil Goods Transport Company in Malegaon on September 28 2008 after an explosive that was concealed on an LML Freedom motorcycle went off. Six people were killed and a hundred people were injured in the blast. The Maharashtra ATS head Hemant Karkare and his team had arrested 14 people in this case. Thakur was arrested under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and MCOCA, Unlawful Activity Prevention Act and Explosive Substance Act.