Maharashtra ATS recoveries ‘tainted’, says NIA chief

Agency says case has not collapsed, only peripheral players dropped

May 14, 2016 01:39 am | Updated November 17, 2021 05:04 am IST - New Delhi:

Amid allegations that the National Investigation Agency has done an about turn on the 2008 Malegaon case by dropping charges against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and watered down charges against Lt. Colonel Shrikant Purohit, the investigating agency’s chief Sharad Kumar told The Hindu that only “players on the periphery of the Maharashtra ATS probe” have been let off and charges stand against the other 10 accused.

The “recoveries” made by the State investigating agency were “doubtful and tainted,” he said.

Maharashtra’s Anti Terrorism Squad had accused Sadhvi Pragya of attending secret meetings of Abhinav Bharat, an organisation allegedly involved in eight right wing terror attacks from 2006-08. She was described as one of the key players who asked Lt. Col Purohit to provide explosives to two other accused Ramji Kalsangre and Sandeep Dange to carry out blasts in Malegaon.

‘Fresh witnesses’ The NIA has contended that after it took over the case, it found several key Army officials had not been examined. It, therefore, recorded the statement of eight “fresh witnesses” who contributed to the investigations, Mr. Kumar said, adding that these were senior officers, including a Colonel and Major.

They told the agency that traces of RDX recovered from the house of Lt. Colonel Shrikant Purohit in Deolali had been planted by an assistant sub-inspector of the Maharashtra ATS.

The Maharashtra ATS initially filed a chargesheet against 14 accused persons, including Sadhvi Pragya.

The case was transferred to the NIA in 2011.

“We relied on seven or eight fresh witnesses, who had not been examined by the ATS, to build our case. There wasn’t sufficient evidence against Pragya. The Maharashtra ATS said that a motorcycle registered in her name was used for the blast. We have evidence in the form of independent witnesses and mechanics who said the golden motorcycle was actually used by Ramchandra Kalsangre, another accused. How can we prosecute her,” asked the NIA Director-General.

The officer added that it was for the courts to decide on what action should be taken against policemen who planted “false evidence” in the case.

“The Maharashtra ATS said that Lokesh Sharma, an accused, was also part of the Abhinav Bharat meeting where it was decided to target Malegaon, but our investigations show that he was in prison at the time of the blast,” said Mr. Kumar.

The NIA had confirmed what the ATS was saying except for six people. The other accused were common to the NIA case also.

‘No subversion’ “We have not subverted the investigations, 10 of the accused have been confirmed,” he contended.

On whether there was pressure from the NDA government to water down the case, Mr. Kumar said, “the government did not know that we were going to file a chargesheet today. The Special Court judge in Mumbai was going on leave from Friday, so we burnt the midnight oil and filed a chargesheet today.”

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