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Malegaon blast accused Purohit challenges sanction to prosecute him

NIA says his petition before the Bombay High Court is not maintainable

Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit, accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast that killed six and injured 101, has filed a fresh petition before the Bombay High Court on Friday challenging the sanction to prosecute him in the case.

Former attorney general Mukul Rohatgi appeared for Lt. Col. Purohit before a Division Bench of Justices S.S. Shinde and M.S. Karnik. He filed the petition under Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (prosecution of Judges and public servants), and said Lt. Col. Purohit is an Army officer and was discharging his official duty by gathering intelligence. He said sanction to prosecute had to be taken before taking cognisance of the offence.

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Mr. Rohatgi had previously challenged Lt. Col. Purohit’s sanction to prosecute under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). He had said, following an amendment to the UAPA on December 31, 2008, the government needed to set up a committee to prosecute anyone under these provisions. The committee would recommend whether or not the government could go ahead with the prosecution. However, in Lt. Col. Purohit’s case, no such committee was formed and the sanction to prosecute him was granted on January 17, 2009.

The National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) counsel Sandesh Patil filed an affidavit and said Lt. Col. Purohit’s application was not maintainable. Mr. Patil said that by no stretch of imagination could the act committed by him be termed as official duty. Mr. Rohatgi sought time to file a rejoinder in the case and the matter is adjourned for September 23.

Lt. Col. Purohit was charged with murder, voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony on him, under relevant sections of the Arms Act, the Indian Explosive Substances Act, and the UAPA.

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The chargesheet filed by the NIA states, “Purohit had floated Abhinav Bharat organisation in the year 2006 in spite of being a serving Commissioned Officer of the Armed Forces of India which is against the services rules.”

The central agency relied upon the statement of a prosecution witness that said, “Purohit gave him three weapons and ammunition to be kept in his house for a month sometime in 2006. The description of the weapons was also dictated to him. He saw RDX in the house of Purohit in a green sack at Devlali and that Purohit confessed to him (witness) about having supplied RDX for Samjhauta Express Blast.”

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