2008 Melegaon blast case: Supreme Court grants conditional bail to Lt Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit

In a much-expected turn of events, Lt Colonel Shrikant Purohit, who has was jailed for the last nine years, has today been granted conditional bail by the Supreme Court, in the Melegaon blast case. Stating that there are enough evidences to link Lt Col Purohit in the blast which claimed seven lives, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had earlier opposed his bail in the last hearing. However, the Supreme Court granted a conditional bail to the Lt Colonel and said, “We set aside order of Bombay High court.”

Following Bombay High Court’s order dismissing the last bail plea, Lt Colonel Purohit filed an interim bail plea to the apex court, on which the court had reserved its order in the last hearing. A bench of Justice RK Agarwal and AM Sapre granted the bail to the Lt Colonel today. Speaking on his defence during the hearing on Thursday, LT Col Purohit claimed that he had been caught because of political crossfire and had been in jail for nine years without proper charges being framed against him. Although agreeing to accusations that he had attended meetings of Abhinav Bharat, a right wing organization whose members were accused with direct links in the blast case, but Lt Col Purohit defended himself by claiming that he had acted as an Army officer and had passed all information on the group’s activities to his senior officials.

As reported by The Indian Express, Senior lawyer Harish Salve, who represented Lt Col Purohit at the apex court, said, “Since 2001, he has got numerous recommendations for infiltration. From an unsung hero, he has been now called an incarcerated hero.” Further claiming that no report has been filed even after eight years of Army’s Court of Inquiry,  Salve stated that the Lt Col had been falsely accused by the Anti-Terrorist Squad of Maharashtra.

Representing the NIA, Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, said that even as the LT Colonel kept his senior officials informed about the activities of Abhinav Bharat, the charges framed against him can be justified through some other evidence.

The blast at Melegaon, a communal-sensitive area in Nasik of Maharasthra, claimed the lives of seven people on 29th September 2008.  While the 400-page charge sheet against Purohit and others claimed that Melegaon had been selected as the target because of the Muslim population in the town, a special MCOCA court had earlier stated that the ATS’ claims against Purohit were wrongly applied. The charge-sheet accuses co-accused Swamii Dayanand Pandey as the one who instructed Purohit to arrange RDX and Sadhvi Pragya Thakur as the owner of the bike used in the blast.

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