The Bombay High Court on Tuesday gave the National Investigation Agency 'last chance' to explain the delay in the 2008 Malegaon blast trial despite several orders from the High Court and Supreme Court to expedite the trial.
Division bench of Acting Chief Justice BP Dharmadhikari and Justice NR Borkar were hearing an application in an appeal filed by one of the accused Sameer Kulkarni, who is out on bail. Appeals filed by the other accused in the case like BJP MP Pragya Thakur and Lt.Col. Prasad Purohit are also tagged with the same matter.
Kulkarni alleged that only 14 witnesses have been examined in the case in the last six months. He also contended that even though the High Court had asked the trial court to expedite the trial in October 2018, some of the accused, the prosecution and NIA are deliberately looking to delay the trial.
Spl NIA Judge VS Padalkar has deposed 140 witnesses so far in the case which is over a decade old. However, Judge Padalkar is set to retire on February 28, 2020 and prosecution had submitted a list of a total 600 witnesses that are to be examined in the case.
High Court had previously asked NIA to submit in a sealed cover the progress so far in the trial. NIA's counsel Sandesh Patil told the Court on Tuesday that he would take instructions by the next date of hearing.
After going through the said progress report submitted earlier to a different bench, Court noted-
"Prima Facie we find that there has been no effective progress in the trial."
Court asked NIA to explain the number of adjournments sought in the trial and give an estimate as to when the trial is likely to be completed.
On September 29, 2008, a bomb explosion took place at Bhiku Chowk, Malegaon, Maharashtra, killing six people and injuring over a hundred. Apart from Sameer Kulkarni, Sadhvi Pragya, Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit, Major (Retd.) Ramesh Upadhyay, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, Ajay Rahilkar and Sudhakar Chaturvedi are accused in the case and have been charged with murder, abetment and conspiracy for the blast.
The next date of hearing is March 16.