NIA Court rejects plea to bar Sadhvi Pragya from contesting Lok Sabha elections

NIA Court rejects plea to bar Sadhvi Pragya from contesting Lok Sabha elections

Bar & Bench

Omkar Gokhale

The Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) Court today refused to restrain Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, key accused in Malegaon Bomb Blast case, from contesting the Lok Sabha elections. 

Special Judge VS Padalkar rejected an application made by Nisar Ahmed Sayyad Bilal to bar Thakur from contesting the ongoing elections. Bilal is the father of one of the victims of the Malegaon Blasts.

Judge Padalkar, while dismissing Bilal’s application, said, 

“In on-going elections this Court does not have any legal powers to prohibit anyone from contesting elections; it is job of electoral officers to decide. This court can’t stop the accused number one (Pragya Singh Thakur) from contesting elections. This application is negated.”

Last week, Bilal had filed an intervention application seeking a direction to restrain Pragya Singh Thakur, who recently got a ticket from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to contest from Bhopal, from taking part in the elections. The court had sought the NIA’s response to the application.

The NIA’s reply, filed through special public prosecutor Avinash Rasal, stated that it had not found sufficient evidence to prosecute Thakur over the Malegaon Blasts. Moreover, in its four-page reply, the NIA said it had no jurisdiction in the matter and that it was for the Election Commission to decide.

In her reply filed through advocate Prashant Maggu, Thakur had urged special judge Padalkar to dismiss Bilal’s plea, stating that pendency of cases is no bar to contesting elections.

“There is no provision in the Representation of Peoples’ Act, 1951 which disqualifies the candidate from contesting the election, if criminal case is pending against him/her”, Maggu told the court on Tuesday.

Thakur’s written reply states, 

“The sub-section 4 of Section 8 of the Act states that even if a person, who is Member of Parliament or state legislature is convicted, disqualification will not take effect if appeal or revision is filed against the conviction within 90 days or if the conviction is stayed by the Court.”

A Special NIA Court had framed charges against Thakur and six others under Sections 16 (punishment for terrorist act) and 18 (punishment for conspiracy to commit terrorist act) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Charges were also framed under the IPC for murder, criminal conspiracy, and promoting enmity between communities in October last year.

The NIA, which claimed that it had given Thakur a clean chit in its charge sheet filed in 2016, said today,

“At this juncture, we cannot state that there is no prima facie case against the accused as NIA has not challenged the order rejecting discharge of the accused before High Court.”

The Special NIA Court ultimately dismissed the application. It cautioned applicant Bilal, but did not order any penalty. The court also warned the NIA,

“There was no need to mention in your reply that you have given clean chit to Sadhvi Pragya Thakur. Applicant did not ask about it. Keep in mind that the court has framed charges against her because it found some substance in allegations made against her.”

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