Malegaon blast case trial: Pragya appears, complains of chair, dust and an infection

Thakur chose to stand through most of the proceedings, complained about the seating arrangement and the cleanliness of the court, and wondered why she was called at all.

Appearing in court for the first time since the trial in the 2008 Malegaon blast case began in December, accused and BJP MP Pragya Singh Thakur had one answer for the two questions she was asked: “I do not know”.

Thakur chose to stand through most of the proceedings, complained about the seating arrangement and the cleanliness of the court, and wondered why she was called at all.

Special Judge V S Padalkar invoked his powers under Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code, to record an accused’s statement, and asked Thakur, “Do you know how many witnesses have been examined by the prosecution?” Standing outside the witness box, Thakur said she would have to ask her lawyer. “Mujhe nahi maloom (I do not know),” she said.

The judge then said that after examination of witnesses, including those injured in the blast and medical experts, it could be concluded that a blast had taken place at Bhiku Chowk on September 29, 2008. He asked her what she had to say about that. “Mujhe jaankari nahi hai (I have no information),” Thakur said.

Thakur appeared for the trial after the special court rejected her request to grant exemption for a week. It had earlier ordered all the seven accused, who are out on bail, to be present before it at least once a week.

The MP landed in Mumbai from Bhopal and appeared before the court around 12.40 pm. She was asked to sit in the accused’s box at the end of the courtroom, where she was joined by two co-accused, Sudhakar Dhar Dwivedi and Sameer Kulkarni. Within minutes, she requested if she could stand, as she had issues with her spinal cord. The court permitted her to stand and asked her to place herself near the witness box.

The court asked Dwivedi and Kulkarni the two questions Thakur was asked. Both said that 116 witnesses had deposed so far and that they had nothing to do with the blast.

With two witnesses present on Friday, the court directed that the proceedings continue after lunch. Thakur’s lawyers J P Mishra and Prashant Maggu asked the court if she could leave, but the court directed her to attend the proceedings.

After lunch, the court began recording the evidence of a retired executive magistrate from Malegaon, who had been part of the inquest panchnama of five of the six killed in the blast. The deposition and cross-examination continued till after 5 pm.

During the proceedings, Thakur requested that she be allowed to stand. The judge said that he was asking on humanitarian grounds if she preferred to sit or stand during the proceedings. Thakur told the court that she could not hear properly due to a throat infection and would prefer to come forward near the seating row for lawyers and litigants. The court allowed her request. One of the cushioned chairs was emptied by a lawyer and offered to her. Thakur, however, continued to stand near the window along with an aide till 5 pm even as the chair near her remained empty in the packed courtroom.

When the judge returned to his chamber after the proceedings, Thakur told the investigating officer of the NIA that she was not offered a proper chair to sit. Even as her lawyers tried to placate her, Thakur said, “Aisi kursi de ke kya siddh karna chahte hai? Is par baithneki halat nahi hai… jhaadu lagane ki bhi vyavastha nahi hai kya… mujhe har cheez se allergy hai (What is being proven by giving me such a chair? It is not fit for me to sit. The courtroom has not been swept, I have allergies).” She pointed to the dust in the court.

Her lawyers told her she should have told them about this during the proceedings, and the court would have been requested accordingly. Thakur, however, continued to complain, stating that she was an undertrial and until proven guilty she had a right to sit, and if found guilty she could be hanged.

“The judge and lawyers are speaking among themselves. If I was a lawyer, I would have spoken too. Why have I been called?” Thakur asked her lawyers. Mishra told her that all accused are expected to be present before the court whenever directed as per its orders. Thakur said that she wanted to file an application regarding her complaints but eventually did not file one.

The hearing was adjourned to Monday. All the accused, including Thakur, will be expected to appear before the court at least once next week.

Thakur is facing trial under sections including murder, criminal conspiracy and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. She had last appeared before the court on October 30, 2018, when charges were framed against her.

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