Wednesday, 13 November 2019

A Colossal National Shame Justice Delayed, Justice Denied

Updated: May 2, 2015 3:49 pm

The Supreme Court ruling that there was no material evidence to show that former military intelligence officer Shrikant Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur were involved in organised crime, comes as a breather in the seven-year-long incarceration of the duo. A two-member bench of Justice F.M. Kalifulla and Shiva Kirti Singh also said that the provisions of the draconian Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act (MCOCA) would not be considered while dealing with their bail applications. The court asked the trial court to consider their bail pleas within one month. It remains a mystery as to why bail continues to elude Sadhvi Pragya and Purohit even though the prosecution has completely failed to make a case that it can even present to the court. This case is being prolonged with no concrete direction.

This was a fact that we at Uday India had carried the issue last year, after our correspondent met her at the Bhopal Jail. Sadhvi had said that the new government was not releasing her because it will set a wrong precedent and result in many other terrorists getting reprieve. She was resigned to her fate, in spite of suffering from terminal cancer. Her health is such that she cannot get up unassisted.

Ironically, Jayalalithaa could get bail within a week of being convicted on grounds of health. Maya Kodnani, Babu Bajrangi, Vanjara, even Madani are all out on bail on the grounds of health. These are all convicted persons who have been sentenced for life. Sadhvi Pragya is an undertrial; no court of the land has found her guilty of any charge yet. The previous UPA regime was committed to keeping her in jail after raising the bogey of “saffron terror”. They did this by imposing MCOCA, just to deny her bail. Pragya’s case was used by Narendra Modi during his Lok Sabha campaign trail. The RSS in many of its programmes had tom-tommed the ‘saffron terror’ cliché imposed on it by the Congress-led UPA. Both Modi and Rajnath Singh had reiterated that Sadhvi had been detained illegally. The landslide victory for the NDA was in fact due to the polarisation of the Hindu vote bank, but despite this, the NDA had quietly forgotten the plight of the Colonel and the suffering Sadhvi and put the whole matter on the backburner.

Purohit, who was with the Military Intelligence Wing, has not been suspended by his bosses and is in an unenviable situation where he is regularly receiving his salary with all the doles involved. Some of the statements of Purohit’s Annual Confidential Reports (ACR), revealed during the court of inquiry, suggest an officer who worked with great, if sometimes overzealous, enthusiasm and dedication. In fact, in 2005 Purohit was invited to deliver a lecture on intelligence-gathering at the Mumbai headquarters of the same Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) that later charged him with being one of the accused in the Malegaon blast. The result of the military inquiry paints a different picture of Purohit, wherein he emerges not as a terrorist mastermind but as an efficient intelligence officer. Each of the 59 witnesses called by the military panel described him as a man with proven track record of infiltrating extremist organisations in the past—including SIMI, Tabliq-e-Jamat, and Naxal organisations. Much of the evidence given by the ATS can be explained as a part of his undercover work. Purohit during his interrogation had asserted that his job as an MI spy included interacting with both Hindu and Muslim extremists. There is no direct proof of his participation in the execution of the blasts.

Most of the accused in the Godhra riots, including Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi, who were meted out life sentences for the Naroda Patiya massacre, were given bail on grounds of poor health right after the NDA swept into power. Kerala-based PDP Chairman and 2008 serial bomb blast case prime accused, Abdul Nasser Madani, was granted bail by the Supreme Court on medical grounds, police officers implicated in the Tulsi Prajapati and Sohrabuddin cases were let free, but Sadhvi remains in custody, despite the fact that she suffers from terminal cancer and no charge-sheet has been filed in seven years.

As terrorist charges against them and others become increasingly surreal, the possibility of their being substantiated in a court of law also appears to be more remote. The Mumbai Anti-Terrorism Squad is struggling with new sub-plots, it would be better to release them and save face. The bogey of ‘Hindu terror’ had initial plausibility, but it fell apart as the arrests degenerated into a fishing expedition of anyone who knew anyone, and the list of their “successful crimes” became truly incredible. The allegation that Lt Col Purohit supplied RDX for the Samjhauta Express blast blew the case to smithereens as that blast was caused by an incendiary device; the army does not stock or use RDX.

Let the trial be speedy and fast, she should be convicted if found guilty and sentenced. Never in the history of independent India has a lady, that too a Sadhvi, been kept in detention for six years without trial. Even the Britishers never did this!

By Deepak Kumar Rath

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