NIA : Found no grounds to prosecute Sadhvi Pragya, EC can decide on poll bar

Mumbai : Replying to a plea to bar Malegaon 2008 blast accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur from contesting the Lok Sabha elections, NIA on Tuesday said that in its 2016 supplementary chargesheet, it had not found sufficient evidence to prosecute her. In her reply, she said there was no provision in law which disallowed her from contesting and described the plea as “frivolous” and “filed for the sake of publicity”.

Last week, Nisar Bilal, whose son Sayyed Ahmed died in the blast, urged the special NIA court to bar Sadhvi Pragya from contesting as the trial against her was pending. Out on bail, she is contesting on a BJP ticket from Bhopal. Both NIA and Pragya submitted their replies before special NIA judge V S Padalkar. The trial is underway in the same court, with over 110 witnesses having deposed.

The NIA on Tuesday said it had not found sufficient evidence to prosecute Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur over the Malegaon blasts. In its four-page reply to a plea of Nisar Bilal to bar her from contesting the Lok Sabha polls, the NIA said it had no jurisdiction in the matter as contesting elections was unrelated to the case, and it did not want to offer comments on the plea as it was related to the election and Election Commission. “It (whether she can contest) can be decided by the EC only,” the NIA said.

The NIA then noted, “It was pertinent to mention that in the supplementary chargesheet dated May 13, 2016, NIA has recommended the prosecution against 10 accused… and recommended the evidences against Pragya and …(five others) were not found sufficient and as such the prosecution against them was not maintainable.”

NIA special public prosecutor Avinash Rasal, the defence and Bilal’s lawyer are to present their arguments on Wednesday.

On October 30 last year, the court framed terror and murder charges against Sadhvi Pragya, Lt Col Prasad Purohit and five others. In December 2017, the court had rejected discharge pleas of the accused, including Pragya and Purohit. The order came despite the NIA not opposing her discharge plea and having given her a clean chit.

The NIA in its reply also stated that Bilal was an intervenor in Pragya’s bail plea before Bombay high court. The NIA reproduced portions of the April 25, 2017 order in which HC granted her bail and rejected Bilal’s plea for a stay on the order. The HC had said, “Since we have recorded the conclusions for the purpose of this appeal that there is no material on record to prove prima facie case against the appellant (Pragya), the prayer for stay is rejected.” Bilal has moved Supreme Court seeking cancellation of her bail. The plea is pending.

The September 29, 2008 blast had killed six persons and left 101 injured.

Pragya submitted her response through advocate Prashant Maggu. She said there was no provision in law which disallowed her from contesting. Citing a provision of the Representation of People’s Act, she said even if a Member of Parliament or state legislature is convicted, disqualification will not take effect if, on an appeal, the court stays the conviction and sentence.

She called the plea an attempt to extend political mileage to parties contesting against her and said the plea should be dismissed with exemplary costs and the applicant dealt with sternly for abusing the process of law and prejudicing her rights.

Bilal had told court that Pragya got bail on health grounds, but since she is healthy enough to fight polls in crippling summer heat, it means she misguided the court. In her bail plea, Thakur had told court she was suffering from breast cancer and couldn’t even walk without support.

In her reply, Sadhvi Pragya said she had undergone cancer surgery at a Lucknow hospital after her release and so it could not be said she had made a wrong statement while seeking bail. Sadhvi Pragya said she had been taking ayurvedic treatment. She said the bail was not just granted on health grounds but also on grounds that there was no prima facie case. Thakur stated she was unable to walk without support and from a news TV programme from October 2018, it could be seen that she was brought in a wheelchair. She said that while there had been a lot of improvement in her health after release from jail, there were a lot of things which were yet to improve.

Source : TOI

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