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You are not entitled to police protection free of cost: Judge to Pragya Singh Thakur

Tuesday, May 21, 2019
By Bhavna Uchil

2008 Malegaon blast trial

Accused seek police protection to visit blast site; court okays, but says you must pay the bill.

Before the complainant in the case and other important witnesses are to depose before the special court conducting the 2008 Malegaon blast trial, the advocates of the main accused Pragya Singh Thakur and others on Monday moved a plea before court, seeking to be provided police protection while making a visit to the blast site.

The application initially made by accused number one Pragya Singh Thakur's advocates stated that the prosecution will be examining material witnesses soon such as the first informant and spot panches and that the place of incident being crowded, it will be harmful to visit it unless protection is provided.

The plea was made under Section 310 of the CrPC that provides for 'local inspection' by a judge or magisrate to a place of offence for the purpose of properly appreciating the evidence. The court then directed the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the prosecuting agency in the case, to file its response to this plea.

The NIA opposed the application made by the defence, stating that under the relevant Section, a judge of magistrate can make a visit, and thus it was not applicable as it is the defence which had sought to make a visit. Also, the agency stated that it did not have the manpower to provide protection to the defence advocates during their visit.

Special NIA judge VS Padalkar, while allowing the defence advocates' plea for police protection during the visit, stated that they would have to pay for the police protection provided to them.

Judge Padalkar said in his order, “Admittedly, the place where the alleged incident occurred in Malegaon in 2008, is a crowded place. The apprehension of advocates that during the visit personally, they would suffer great physical harm and therefore, the present application is filed. The submissions of advocates as advanced in the application, appears to be reasonable, cogent and will have to be accepted for fair trial and justice for the purpose of cross-examination of these witnesses (complainant, spot witnesses) the advocates have filed present application. In fact the advocates of the accused have the right to pay visit to the place. Police protection is prayed only for the reason that there should not be any untoward incident at the time of visit. NIA has no manpower to provide protection. The place of incident is at Malegaon, Nashik. The charges of protection shall be borne by these advocates..They shall deposit requisite government charges.Deposit charges of police persons, 15 in number in Superintendent of Police office, Nashik.”

While making oral submissions before filing the application, Thakur's advocate JP Mishra had told the court that they would be prepared to pay the expenses of the protection provided. However, when the court was dictating the order in which stated that the cost would have to be borne by the advocates, Thakur's advocate Prashant Maggu told court that the NIA has to provide the protection and requested that the charges (on themselves) be removed. To this, judge Padalkar said, “At free cost, you are not entitled.”

The court then authorized the SP, Nashik to provide police protection to them on deposit of charges. The visit is tentatively to take place before June 2. The court has ordered that the charges be deposited by May 27.

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