On Monday BJP MP Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the Malegaon blast case of 2008, appeared before a special NIA court here .Thakur remained in the box reserved for accused persons at the back of the courtroom along with four other co-accused in the case, which is being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). On December 19, 2020, Special Judge P R Sitre had given “last chance” to Thakur to appear before the court. He had expressed displeasure over her failure to appear before the court twice last month. Earlier, in 2019, the court had said the seven accused persons in the case, all of whom are out on bail, should appear before it at least once a week. Thakur and four other accused – Lt Col Prasad Purohit, Sameer Kulkarni, Ramesh Upadhyay and Sudhakar Chaturvedi – appeared before the court.
The two other accused – Ajay Rahirkar and Sudhakar Dwivedi – were absent. One witness was also present in the court, but his cross-examination could not be done as the
advocate for accused Dwivedi was not available. The court posted the trial for hearing on Tuesday. After the regular functioning of the court resumed in November last year, following easing of the coronavirus -induced restrictions, the court had directed all the seven accused in the case to remain present before it on December 3. However, most of the accused, including Thakur, skipped the court that day, citing the pandemic situation. The court then asked them to appear before it on December 19. Thakur again did not appear that day and her lawyer told the court that she was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi for treatment. The court then directed Thakur to appear before it on January 4, and said this was the last chance given to her. Thakur, who is the BJP MP from Bhopal, had last appeared before the court in June 2019 after it ordered the seven accused to remain present once a week. However, she had sought exemption from appearance on various occasions since then. The trial in the case came to a halt in March last year following the lockdown imposed across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last month, the special NIA court resumed the trial. So far, around 140 witnesses out of the total 400 have been examined. On September 29, 2008, six people were killed and over 100 others injured when an explosive device strapped on a motorcycle went off near a mosque in Malegaon, a town about 200 km from Mumbai in north Maharashtra. The court framed terror charges against Purohit, Thakur and five other accused in October 2018.The accused in the case have been charged under Sections 16 (committing terrorist act) and 18 (conspiring to commit terrorist act) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).They have also been charged under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 120 (b) (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 153 (a) (promoting enmity between two religious groups), and relevant provisions of the Explosive Substances Act.