Alleged Hindu terrorist out of jail after 9 years

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday granted bail to suspended Lt. Col. Prasad Shrikant Purohit, the main accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast, after he had spent nine years in prison. Granting bail, a bench of Justice R.K. Agrawal and Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre said: "In our considered opinion, there are material contradictions in the charge sheets filed by the ATS Mumbai and the NIA which are required to be tested at the time of trial and this court cannot pick or choose one version over the other." Pointing out that grant or refusal of bail was within the court's discretion, Justice Agrawal, speaking for the bench, said: "The grant or denial is regulated, to a large extent, by the facts and circumstances of each particular case. But at the same time, right to bail is not to be denied merely because of the sentiments of the community against the accused." The Malegaon bomb blast case was initially investigated by the Anti-Terrorism Squad, Mumbai, before it was handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The liberty of a citizen is undoubtedly important but this is to balance with the security of the community, the court said while pointing out that a balance was required to be maintained between the personal liberty of the accused and the investigation rights of the agency. "It must result in minimum interference with the personal liberty of the accused and the right of the agency to investigate the case," the court said. Referring to an earlier bail plea of Purohit, the court said an accused had the right to make successive applications for grant of bail, and the court while "entertaining such subsequent bail applications has a duty to consider the reasons and grounds on which the earlier bail applications were rejected". In such cases where successive applications for bail have been made, the court said, it has "a duty to record the fresh grounds which persuade it to take a view different from the one taken in the earlier applications". The court referred to "variations" in the charge sheets filed by the ATS Mumbai and the NIA. It said: "... we are of the considered opinion that there are variations in the charge sheets filed by ATS Mumbai and NIA." It noted that Purohit was an intelligence officer with the Army and had denied the claim of conspiracy on the ground that he was apprising his superior officers of the intelligence inputs and the alleged role of ATS officials in the planting of RDX at the residence of another accused. Purohit had told the apex court that till date charges had not been framed against him while those under the MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act) had been dropped. He told the court that he had been in jail for nine years and was entitled to bail. Purohit had challenged the April 25 Bombay High Court order which granted bail to co-accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur but rejected his bail plea. Seven persons were killed in the explosion in Malegaon in Nashik district in Maharashtra on September 29, 2008. The investigating agencies had earlier attributed the blast to right-wing group Abhinav Bharat. IANS