On Wednesday, another witness, a retired military officer in the 2008 Malegaon blast case refused to recognize one of the suspects in a special court and claimed that he had never stated it to the Mumbai ATS about the case. The court on March 30 declared him the 20th hostile witness in the case.
According to the reports, the witness, who held the post of naik in the Army, had given a statement to the Maharashtra ATS in 2009 in which he had mentioned a camp that was allegedly organized by some of the accused at Deolali near Nashik. He had then said that he had seen two of the accused, Prasad Purohit and Sudhakar Chaturvedi, attending the camp.
MALEGAON BLAST CASE— Mirror Now (@MirrorNow) March 30, 2022
ATS CHIEF SPEAKS TO TIMES NETWORK#Maharashtra ATS chief Vineet Agarwal speaks to Times Network’s @radhika1705 on witnesses turning hostile in the Malegaon blast case and the transfer of the case to the NIA. Listen in. pic.twitter.com/qipWZrzvsT
The information was then passed on by the Maharashtra ATS to the National Investigation Agency which took over the case in 2013. However, during his deposition on March 30 before special NIA court judge Prashant R Sitre, the witness failed to recognize Purohit who was present. Following this, the court declared him hostile to the prosecution’s request.
Reports mention that a witness presented by the probe agency is declared hostile when he or she does not support the prosecution’s case in court and refuses to speak against the accused. Earlier, the 19th witness, who is a former army officer had also turned hostile on March 24 after testifying before a special NIA court. He had only recognized Purohit and said that he did not know any of the other accused.
It is important to note that one of the blasts accused named Sudhakar Chaturvedi in the year 2017 had told the NIA court that the Mumbai ATS had falsely implicated innocent people in the name of ‘Saffron terror’ and had tried to frame the then BJP MP Yogi Adityanath and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. He had further alleged that the then Congress-NCP government had tried to frame Hindu activists to appease Muslim voters.
Also, in the year 2021, one of the witnesses had made similar statements against the Maharashtra ATS. The witness told the Special NIA court that he was threatened, tortured, and kept in illegal custody by the Mumbai ATS and forced to take the names of five Rashtriya Swayamseval Sangh (RSS) members including Yogi Adityanath, Indresh Kumar, Deodhar, and Kakaji.
The 2008 Malegaon blast case
On September 29, 2008 bomb blasts took place in the Malegaon region of Nashik district of Maharashtra which resulted in 6 deaths and 100 injuries. Soon, Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Lt Col Purohit were arrested in connection with the blast, and as a result terms like ‘Hindu terror’ or ‘Saffron terror’ were popularized by some politicians and Leftist media after their arrests.
They continued languishing in jails till April and August 2017 after which they were granted bail. As many as 235 witnesses have been deposed in the trial so far. The seven accused who are facing charges of murder, criminal conspiracy, and relevant charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) are Thakur, Purohit, Major (retired) Ramesh Upadhyay, Ajay Rahirkar, Sudhakar Dwivedi, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, and Sameer Kulkarni. They have been booked under UAPA and IPC. Relevant provisions of the Explosive Substances Act have also been invoked in the FIR.