A special court here conducting the trial in the 2008 Malegaon blast case Friday directed all the seven accused, including BJP's Bhopal Lok Sabha candidate Pragya Singh Thakur and Lt Col Prasad Purohit, to appear before it once a week. Upset over the frequent absence of the accused during the trial, NIA court judge Vinod Padalkar gave this direction.
He also directed that exemption sought without cogent reasons will be rejected. The judge observed that it appears that the accused do not attend court on one ground or the other, and prayers in all the applications are one and the same.
Considering the nature of the offence and charges, it would not be proper for the accused to remain absent forever by filing exemption applications, he said. The court, at present, is recording the testimony of the witnesses in the case. The matter will be next heard on May 20.
Besides Purohit and Thakur, Major (retired) Ramesh Upadhyay, Ajay Rahirkar, Sudhakar Dwivedi, Sudhakar Chaturvedi and Sameer Kulkarni are the other accused in the case. They are all out on bail. In October last year, the court had framed charges in the case against all the seven accused of terror activities, criminal conspiracy and murder, among others.
The accused face trial under sections of the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC). They were charged under sections 16 (committing terrorist act) and 18 (conspiring to commit terrorist act) of the UAPA.
Under the IPC, they were charged under sections 120 (b) (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 153 (a) (promoting enmity between two religious groups). The accused were also charged under relevant sections of the Explosive Substances Act.
On September 29, 2008, 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 here in north Maharashtra. The court also rejected a plea seeking the presence of anti-terrorism squad (ATS) officers in court during the trial to assist the special public prosecutor.
It is for ATS to depute officers and decide whether or not they can remain present, the judge observed, adding that it is not the business of the court to depute ATS officer to assist the public prosecutor. The plea was filed by Nisar Ahmed Sayyed (59), who lost his son Sayyed Azhar in the blast.
He filed the plea through advocates Shahid Nadeem and Adil Shaikh, requesting the court to direct the head or higher authority of the ATS to depute officers concerned to assist the special public prosecutor (NIA) during the trial.
(With inputs from agencies.)