Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today admitted a plea filed by Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, challenging previous judgements of the HC and a special trial court that had rejected his discharge from the case. On December 18, 2017, the high court had refused to quash a government sanction that permitted Purohit’s prosecution in the blast case.
Earlier on December 27, a special NIA court had dismissed his plea to discharge him from the case.Purohit then approached the Supreme Court, and based on the apex court’s directions, approached the HC again earlier this year arguing that the sanction granted by the government to prosecute him in the case, was wrong in law. A prior sanction for Purohit’s prosecution was required since he was a serving Army officer at the time.
On January 17, 2009, this sanction was issued by the Additional Chief Secretary of the Maharashtra Home Department. Purohit’s lawyer Shrikant Shivde, however, has maintained that under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the state law and judiciary department, which is the sanctioning authority, has to constitute an appropriate authority and seek its report first.
In his case, the sanction was given in January 2009 but the authority was appointed only in October 2010, he has argued. The sanction in Purohit’s case thus, was not valid under the provisions of the UAPA and hence, courts couldn’t have taken cognisance of the charges against him, Shivde has maintained.
In the hearing conducted today, a bench of Justices Ranjit More and Anuja Prabhudessai, admitted the plea and said arguments over sanction will be heard from July 16. The National Investigating Agency (NIA), the prosecution in the case, had earlier opposed Purohit’s plea.
NIA counsel, advocate Sandesh Patil, had argued that as per procedure, Purohit must file a fresh plea before the special court seeking discharge on the point of sanction. The bench also suggested that the NIA refrain from proceeding with the trial in the special court until the issue of sanction vide Purohit’s plea was decided by the high court.
Patil, however, told the bench today that while the special NIA court had scheduled the framing of charges in the case for today, it was unlikely that the same would happen since the NIA court wasn’t “ready yet”. Six persons were killed and over a 100 were injured when an explosive device strapped on a motorcycle went off near a mosque in Malegaon in Maharashtra, on September 29, 2008.
On December 27 last year, a special NIA court had dismissed pleas filed by Purohit, his co-accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, and six others seeking that they be discharge from the case. It had however, given them partial relief by dropping all charges against them under the stringent MCOCA. Purohit and his co-accused are still facing charges under the UAPA and some provisions of the Indian Penal Code.