Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur's arrest in connection with the Malegaon blast case has sent shock waves across the nation.
Whiel the Mumbai's Anti Terrorism Squad says it has enough evidence against her, her lawyer, Ganesh Sovani feels that the ATS is shooting in the dark and she is innocent. Sovani spoke to rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa at length about this sensational case and how the sadhvi is coping in custody.
Does the Mumbai ATS have a case against sadhvi Pragnya Singh Thakur or are they shooting in the dark?
This is basically what (Bharatiya Janata Party leader) L K Advani pointed out. This case is being politicised and the ATS, I am afraid to say, is leaking information selectively to some journalists. Take the arrest of Lieutenant Colonel Srikant Purohit for instance. Just because one person is allegedly involved does not mean that the entire army is involved. There are black sheep everywhere but that does not mean that an entire organisation or institution is bad.
You have not applied for bail as yet. Why the delay?
The provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act have not yet been invoked against her. This would mean that the investigating agency should file a charge-sheet by January 23 that is 90 days since her arrest. I have decided to seek bail for my client once the chargesheet is filed. If the chargesheet is not filed then we have other remedies. We however do not intend moving the high court. We will go step by step and approach the sessions court first. We want to explore all remedies and moving an application for bail before the high court first would mean that we exhaust one remedy available to us. However, if the provisions of MCOCA are invoked, the investigating agency gets additional time to file the chargesheet. In such an event we may have to delay the process to seek bail.
Do you think that the ATS will invoke the provisions of MCOCA on your client?
I really do not know (Editor's Note: The Mumbai ATS has since booked all the 10 accused in the case under MCOCA). But it is going to be tough to invoke these provisions. The ATS will have to first prove that two or more people have coordinated in order to commit this crime since the provisions deal with organised crime. If they are unable to do so then they will have to show before the court that there was a chargesheet filed against her in the past ten years. This means that they will have to show that my client has had a criminal record in the past. These are the pre-requisites to invoke the provisions of MCOCA. My client has no history of crime and there is also no chargesheet filed against her in the past. Hence in my view invoking these provisions are going to be tough.
If MCOCA is not invoked, what other charges is the ATS proposing to proceed against your client?
Provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Explosives Act.
What exactly is the case against the sadhvi? What is your reading?
At the moment the ATS wants to link the vehicle used in the blast against her. She owned an LML Freedom two-wheeler. But since she was travelling most of the time, she hardly used the vehicle. In October 2004, she sold the vehicle to a person named Sunil Joshi (Joshi was allegedly killed earlier this year and according to his supporters he was killed by members of the Students Islamic Movement of India) for Rs 24,000. She had also signed the necessary forms for transfer of the vehicle. During interrogation she was repeatedly asked how the vehicle reached Malegaon and she asserted that since October, 2004 she had no control over the vehicle or its movements and usage.
Can I ask you something? If a person comes to your home for dinner and on his way back he commits a crime, can you be held responsible for the same?
Your client has made allegations of being tortured by the ATS. Could you detail it?
I will quote from the sadhvi's affidavit here. 'On October 12, the ATS changed the mode of interrogation and became extremely aggressive. At first they asked my disciple Bhimbhai Pasricha to beat me with sticks and belts on my palms, forehands, soles, etc. When Pasricha refused to do so, he was severely beaten by the ATS. Ultimately with the greatest reluctance, he complied with the ATS orders but obviously being my disciple, he exerted minimum force on me. He was then pushed aside by a member of the ATS squad known as Khanwilkar, who then commenced beating me severely with a belt on my hands, forearms, palms, feet, soles, causing me bruises, swelling and contusions in these areas.
'From October 13 onwards, I was beaten during the day, night and midnight. On two occasions I was even woken up at 4 am in the morning and questioned about my knowledge of the blast. On these occasions, I was beaten by a senior officer having a moustache, whom I can identify. In addition I was subject to vulgar abuse and obscene language by members of the ATS team interrogating me. My guru was abused and my chastity was questioned. I was physically and verbally traumatised to the extent that I wanted to commit suicide.'
Tell us about the brain mapping and narco-analysis tests conducted on your client.
The brain mapping, polygraph and narco-analysis tests conducted on her are all negative. I have stated in the affidavit before the court that the tests were conducted on my client without her consent. Nevertheless all these tests have only established her innocence.
Tell us about the telephone conversation which the ATS claims it has in its possession.
On November 3, when she was produced before the Nashik court, the police sought four days additional custody. The police told the court that they wanted to interrogate her based on a telephonic conversation. My question is why the ATS did not mention the telephonic conversation or transcripts in the remand application. Ironically there was not even a vague or casual reference about this conversation. I want to ask why the ATS had hidden this fact. However on that day they did not manage to get police custody as she was remanded in judicial custody.
Have you managed to get the transcripts of the telephonic conversation?
No. Not at this juncture.
Lt Col Purohit says in his narco-analysis test that he had met the sadhvi. Do you think they are linked?
I would say no. We meet so many people everyday and if that person is involved in a crime does not mean that you too are guilty.
How is the sadhvi coping with the situation? Is she hopeful of coming out clean?
Absolutely. I am reasonably confident that she will come out clean. Even if MCOCA is invoked she will still come out clean. The ATS is trying hard to invoke MCOCA against her although they do not have the grounds to do so.
What does your client have to say about the case?
She just says that it is not her fault and that she is being framed. She says that she is innocent and in particular has no connection with the Malegaon blast. She says the ATS is aware that she is innocent and it appears that they have a mandate from their political superiors to implicate her in the Malegaon blast with a view to suggest that Hindu religious extremists are resorting to terrorism.
How has she taken this entire episode? Is she down or does she still have the will to fight?
She is not at all down. She is confident and with each passing day she is growing in confidence and wants to fight this out. She knows now that she has a lot of support. Check all the social networking sites and you will see for yourself the amount of support she has managed to generate. She does not want any kind of special treatment in jail. Recently when her two sisters met her she told them that she does not require home food and prefers jail food. My client is very strong mentally and will fight this battle.
People won't forgive Sadhvi's arrest: Advani
Advani said, "Sadhvi Pragya Singh was arrested on the basis of a motorcycle that was used in the Malegaon blast and subsequently she was kept in the police custody for 16 days in illegal detention. Also, ATS had made a ridiculous disclosure by claiming that the sadhvi and her associates were planning to kill some RSS leaders."
"ATS was making information public and this was being used for political advantage by the Congress which is in power at the Centre," he said.
"The people of India will never forgive the UPA Govt for arresting and torturing Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, Advani said.