- Pragya Singh Thakur appeared today before a special NIA court
- She skipped two hearings in 2008 Malegaon blast case this week
- This is her first court appearance after elections
BJP lawmaker Pragya Singh Thakur appeared today before a court in Mumbai in connection with the 2008 Malegaon blast case, in which she is "Accused No 1", after skipping two dates citing ill-health. In court, the saffron-robed legislator, who had been warned of "consequences" if she failed to appear today, denied knowledge of the September 29 blast. She later shouted at her lawyer while complaining of dust and a "dirty chair".
In one of the more dramatic moments of the hearing, the NIA (National Investigation Agency) court asked Pragya Thakur, "116 witnesses have been examined and it has been established that a blast took place? I am not asking who did it. Do you know a blast took place on 29th September, 2008?"
Pragya Thakur's reply was, "I don't know".
This was Pragya Thakur's first appearance before the court, which had ordered the accused in the case to appear before it at least once a week, since being elected to parliament in the general election that concluded on May 23.
As soon as Judge VS Padalkar left the courtroom at the end of the day's hearing, came an outburst from Pragya Thakur. Turning to her lawyer, she complained that her chair was broken and dusty, and that while she could be "hanged", she should at least have a proper place to sit when called to court.
The 49-year-old, who had been admitted to a Bhopal hospital on Tuesday evening for dehydration and hypertension, sat in court on a red satin cloth provided by her supporters.
"She said I am an MP and I am going to take up this point that the conditions where the accused sit should be seen on humanitarian grounds," defence lawyer Ranjeet Sangle told NDTV.
In response, NIA lawyer Avinash Rasal said no special arrangements could be made for the accused.
"We are trying to give them the best facilities. If that chair was not comfortable she should have said it at that time and informed the judge. The judge was kind enough to give her liberty to stand as well as sit," he said to NDTV.
She had been due in court yesterday but her lawyer requested an exemption saying she had been taken to the hospital with high blood pressure. The lawmaker, who moves around mostly in a wheelchair, was seen at a public event later in the day.
The court, which had earlier refused exemption requests, agreed but warned the BJP leader to appear today or "face consequences".
Pragya Thakur was arrested over the blasts in Maharashtra's Malegaon in 2008 in which six people were killed and over 100 injured. She faces charges under multiple sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, the Indian Penal Code, the Arms Act and the Explosive Substances Act.
The NIA court had dropped stringent charges under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act but the trial court retained charges against her under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Pragya Thakur is currently out on bail on health grounds; her candidature in last month's national election had been challenged in court by the father of one of the men who had died in the blast.
Pragya Thakur won as the BJP candidate from Bhopal, beating veteran Congress leader Digvijaya Singh by over 3.6 lakh votes.