The lawyer of Malegaon blast accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur has claimed that the Anti-Terrorist Squad had detained and interrogated her illegally last year, as a woman cannot be summoned to a police station for mere questioning.
Arguing for her bail plea in the Bombay high court, senior lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani claimed that the ATS had summoned the Sadhvi to Surat on October 9, 2008, and she was asked to accompany them to Mumbai the next day.
"She voluntarily submitted herself to the ATS custody on October 9," Jethmalani said.
However, according to the ATS, the Sadhvi was arrested only on October 23.
It has claimed that it had summoned the Sadhvi to its office in Mumbai from time to time between October 11 and 23, but that she was allowed to leave the premises after each questioning.
Six people were killed when the bomb went off in Malegaon on September 29, 2008. The ATS arrested the Sadhvi after for her alleged role in the blast after it claimed that the motorcycle on which the bomb was planted had allegedly belonged to her.
However, Jethmalani has claimed that the Sadhvi had been in the ATS custody all along right from October 9. Even if she had not been detained, it was illegal for the police to summon a woman for interrogation to police station, Jethmalani argued.
"You do not interrogate woman except at her residence..." Jethmalani said.
"The ATS could have interrogated her at Jabalpur (where she lived), but she was called to Surat," he said.
He also pointed out that if, as per the ATS's claim, the Sadhvi had been only summoned for questioning between October 10 and 23, no summons had been issued to her.
As per the law, if the police wants to call a person for mere questioning, it has to issue summons, he said.Advocate Ganesh Sovani, who is her lawyer on record, told reporters that the date of arrest is significant because if the chargesheet is not filed within 90 days of arrest, the accused becomes entitled to bail. In the Malegaon case, the chargesheet was filed on January 20, and the 90-day period expired on January 9, if the date of arrest was October 9, he said.
The arguments will continue next week.
Image: Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur