Judicial custody for Pragnya, six others


Mumbai : On an evening of high drama marked by accusations of torture and mental harassment against the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) that even forced a brief halt in court hearing, seven of the 10 accused in the Sep 29 Malegaon blasts, including Sadhvi Pragnya Thakur, were Monday remanded in judicial custody till Dec 3.

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The ATS presented the seven accused before Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) special judge Y. D. Shinde, seeking their remand, but the plea was turned down.

Granting judicial custody to the accused, Shinde rejected the arguments of special public prosecutor Rohini Salian for custodial interrogation of the accused to trace out the source of the finances and the explosives used in the Malegaon blast that left six dead and 20 injured.

Shortly after the proceedings started, Pragnya shocked the court by alleging that ATS officials threatened to “disrobe” her if she refused to co-operate in the probe.

She also accused the ATS of threatening to hang her upside down, ill-treatment, assault, forcing her to hear an obscene CD and denying her food on Diwali day.

She contended that since she might be subjected to further mental torture and harassment, it would be improper to grant police custody until the allegations made by her against ATS in her affidavit last week were thoroughly probed.

Similarly, serving Indian Army officer Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit also alleged that ATS officials threatened to his wife with dire consequences, said RDX would be planted in his home to frame him and to kill him in an encounter. He said he was hung upside down during interrogation with both hands tied to a pole.

His advocate S. Shivare contended that the accused were tortured and harassed to extract confessions from them in police custody.

Retired army officer Maj. Ramesh Upadhyay also alleged beating, torture and harassment by ATS officers and threats to “dishonour my wife and daughter publicly”.

The others who were presented before the court were Ajay Eknath Rahirkar, Shivnarayan Gopalsingh Kalsangra, Jagdish Chintaman Mhatre and Shyam Bhanwarlal Sahu.

The prosecution lawyers strongly refuted the allegations made by the accused.