Recording of testimonies of witnesses by a special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast case will begin from December 3. All the seven accused, including Lt Col Prasad Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, are facing trial for charges under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
"Summonses have been issued to the witnesses. The court will start recording their testimonies from December 3," Special Public Prosecutor Avinash Rasal said Monday.
Charges in the case were framed by special court judge Vinod Padalkar on October 30, against all the seven accused for terror activities, criminal conspiracy and murder, among others.
Besides Purohit and Thakur, Major (retd) Ramesh Upadhyay, Ajay Rahirkar, Sudhakar Dwivedi, Sudhakar Chaturvedi and Sameer Kulkarni are the other accused in the case.
They were charged under sections 16 (committing terrorist act) and 18 (conspiring to commit terrorist act) of the UAPA.
They were charged under sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 153A (promoting enmity between two religious groups), under the IPC.
The accused were also charged under the relevant sections of the Explosive Substances Act.
The accused had formed a right-wing organisation and held meetings under its name at various places in the country, where the alleged conspiracy was hatched, the prosecution said.
The NIA court, last year on December 27 had dismissed the pleas filed by Purohit, Thakur and others seeking to be discharged from the case.
The NIA, after taking over the case, had filed a chargesheet in 2016, giving a clean chit to Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, Shyam Sahu, Praveen Takalki and Shivnarayan Kalsangra, saying it had found no evidence against them and they should be discharged from the case.
The court had, however, absolved only Sahu, Kalsangra and Takalki and ruled that Sadhvi Pragya Thakur will have to face the charges.
At that time, the court had dropped the stringent charges under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against the accused but had said they will face the charges under the UAPA and IPC.
The accused had later challenged the applicability of the UAPA against them and the court had last month rejected their pleas.
Six people were killed and over 100 injured when an explosive device strapped on a motorcycle went off near a mosque in Malegaon, a town located about 200 km from Mumbai in north Maharashtra, on September 29, 2008.