Sadhvi, five others get clean chit in Malegaon bombing case

Mumbai: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday gave a clean chit and removed Sadhvi Pragnya Singh Thakur and five others from the list of the accused in the September 2008 Malegaon blasts case, paving the way for their early release from prison. The sensitive Malegaon blast case had brought to fore the so-called "right-wing terror", in which most of the accused were linked to Hindutva groups. The Sadhvi's lawyer Sanjiv Punalekar said that the NIA decided to drop charges against her under the dreaded Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) due to lack of sufficient evidence. "The charges against Sadhvi Pragnya, Shyam Sahu, Shivnarain Kalsangra, Lokesh Shama, Dhan Singh Chouduhry and Pravin Mutalik have been dropped while the charge sheet is being filed against the other accused in the case," Punalekar said. The NIA has also decided to drop MCOCA chagres against all the accused.  On September 29, 2008, two bombs planted on motorcycles exploded in Malegaon town, Nashik district, killing seven and injuring 80 others. It was later touted as the first terror case involving the hitherto unknown "Hindu extremists". The case was investigated by the then state Anti-Terrorist Squad chief Hemant Karkare, who was killed in the November 26, 2008, Mumbai terror attack. The Malegaon bombing case was later probed by the NIA. The ATS had accused the Sadhvi of plotting the bombing. She was arrested on October 23 of that year. Like the ATS, the NIA had earlier named 14 accused including Sahu, Kalsangra, Mutalik, Lt. Col. Prasad S. Purohit, Ramesh Upadhyay, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, Sameer Kulkarni, Rakesh Dhavade, Jagdish Mhatre, Sudhakar Dwivedi alias Dayanand Pandey and Ajay R. Rahirkar. Two others -- Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange, who are accused also in the Samjhauta Express blast of 2007 -- were shown as "absconders".