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Court says it has no power to bar Pragya Thakur from contesting elections

The court also came down heavily on the prosecuting agency, the NIA, for reiterating its stand that there is no prima facie evidence against Thakur.

Pragya Singh Thakur
Pragya Singh Thakur

In a relief for Malegaon blast accused and BJP Lok Sabha candidate Pragya Singh Thakur, an NIA court here Wednesday rejected a plea to prohibit her from contesting elections, saying it has no power to do so.

Special judge for National Investigation Agency (NIA) cases V S Padalkar rejected the application filed by Nisar Sayyad, whose son was among those killed in the 2008 Malegaon blast.

Sayyad had demanded that Thakur, accused of orchestrating the blast, be prohibited from contesting the Lok Sabha election. He had also urged the court to cancel her bail.

"This court does not have any legal powers to prohibit anyone from contesting the polls. It is the job of electoral officers to decide. This court cannot stop the accused from contesting the polls," Judge Padalkar said.

Sayyad approached the court after the BJP fielded Thakur as its Lok Sabha candidate from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh to take on Congress veteran Digvijay Singh.

The court observed, while rejecting Sayyad's plea, that "a wrong forum has been chosen".

The court also came down heavily on the prosecuting agency, the NIA, for reiterating its stand that there is no prima facie evidence against Thakur.

"In the reply filed by the NIA, the agency has noted that there is no prima facie material, evidence against Thakur. It is not known as to why this portion is included when there is no prayer in this regard by the intervenor," the judge observed.

The court noted that it had rejected Thakur's discharge plea despite the NIA giving a clean chit to her, and the court later also framed charges against her.

"At this juncture, the NIA cannot state that there is no prima facie evidence against Thakur, especially when it has not challenged the the order of rejection of her discharge application," the court said.

Earlier in the day, arguing against Sayyad's plea, Thakur's lawyer J P Mishra said she was fighting the election for the "cause of ideology" and for the "sake of the nation".

"She is contesting the election to condemn people who say there is Hindu terrorism," advocate Mishra added.

Sayyad, in his application, pointed out that Thakur had got bail from the high court on health grounds.

If she was "healthy enough to fight elections in the crippling summers heat", then she had misled the court, he claimed.

Responding to it, Mishra said, "Thakur has not misled the court. After the court's order (on bail), she underwent an operation and was unable to walk in 2016. Her condition has improved now, but she has not fully recovered."

He also submitted that Thakur did not get bail only on medical grounds, but also on the merit of her case.

Six people were killed and over 100 injured in a blast at Malegaon, a communally sensitive textile town in north Maharashtra's Nashik district, on September 29, 2008.

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad arrested Thakur and others in the case, alleging they were part of a Hindu extremist group which carried out the blast.

The NIA, in 2016, gave Thakur a clean chit, but the court did not discharge Thakur.

It dropped charges against her under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), but she is still facing trial under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Indian Penal Code sections.