BJP MP Pragya Singh Thakur on Friday (June 7) appeared before a special court in Mumbai in connection with the 2008 Malegaon blast case, after failing twice this week to do so.
When Special NIA Judge V S Padalkar asked the saffron-clad Thakur if she has to say anything about the blast, she said, “I dont know.”
Supported by two aides while entering the court, Thakur appeared before the special NIA Judge as per the direction of the court which is conducting trial in the 11-year-old case. Besides her, other accused in the case also attended the court.
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The judge read out his order to the accused where he directed them to be present in the court at least once a week. He said the court has till now examined 116 witnesses, including doctors and panchas (a category of witnesses).
During most of the hearings in the past, the accused were represented in the court by their advocates. After reading out his order, the judge called Thakur and another accused Sudhakar Dwivedi to the witness box.
Citing statements of witnesses, the judge asked them whether they were aware that a bomb blast had taken place at Malegaon in North Maharashtra in September 2008 where six people were killed. To this, Thakur replied, “Mujhe jankari nahi hai (I have no information about it).” Dwivedi gave a similar answer.
When asked about the proceeding in the case, the 49-year-old MP said she was not aware about the number of witnesses examined by the court.
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A red velvet cloth was put on the bench, where the accused sit, for Thakur to sit comfortably. When the judge called her to the witness box to stand till the order is passed she said she will stand leaning by the window instead of sitting in the chair given by the court.
This was Thakurs first appearance before the court after being elected to the Lok Sabha from Bhopal last month. The last time was during the framing of charges in the case in October last year.
Judge Padalkar had last month directed all the accused, including Thakur, to appear before the court at least once a week. The judge then had said an exemption from appearance would be granted only if cogent reasons were submitted.
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The court is currently recording the testimony of witnesses in the case. Seven persons, including Thakur and Lt Col Prasad Purohit, are facing trial in the case.
On Monday, the special court rejected application of Thakur, who defeated Congress veteran Digvijay Singh from Bhopal, for exemption from appearance in the court this week.
The 49-year-old Hindutva activist had sought the exemption for completing formalities relating to her election to Parliament, but the court said her presence is necessary at this stage in the case.
On Thursday, her lawyer Prashant Magoo told the court she is suffering from high blood pressure and is unable to travel to Mumbai from Bhopal. The court granted her exemption for the day and asked her to appear before it Friday.
“Today (Thursday), the exemption is granted. But she will have to appear on Friday else she will have to face consequences,” the judge had said. Thakur was hospitalised for a stomach ailment in Bhopal on Wednesday night and discharged early Thursday.
The Malegaon blast, 2008
Six people were killed and over 100 injured when an explosive device strapped to a motorcycle went off near a mosque in Malegaon, a power-loom town in north Maharashtra, on September 29, 2008.
According to police, the motorbike was registered in Thakur’s name and that led to her arrest in 2008. The Bombay High Court granted her bail in 2017.
Thakur was given a clean chit by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), but the trial court refused to discharge her from the case.
The court had dropped charges against her under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), but she is being tried under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and other relevant laws.
The accused are facing trial under various sections of the UAPA, the Indian Penal Code and the Explosive Substances Act. They have been charged under UAPA sections 16 (committing terrorist act) and 18 (conspiring to commit terrorist act).
They are also facing charges under 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).