In a politically-significant move, the Madhya Pradesh government is contemplating to reopen a 12-year-old murder case of an RSS activist in which controversial BJP leader Pragya Singh Thakur was acquitted due to lack of evidence.
RSS 'pracharak' Sunil Joshi was shot dead in Dewas district on December 29, 2007. Thakur, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts, was one of the eight people who were acquitted by a lower court in 2017 in the Joshi murder case due to lack of evidence.
State Law Minister P C Sharma said a legal opinion is being sought for reopening the case as the bureaucrats had "faulted" by not appealing against the February 1, 2017, order of the court.
The move is seen by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a "politics of revenge" by the Congress-led government in the state. "It looks like the MP government is going to take this decision because Pragya Thakur contested the election as BJP candidate against Congress' Digvijaya Singh," party spokesperson Rajnish Agarwal said.
Thakur is contesting the Lok Sabha election from Bhopal on a BJP ticket against the Congress' two-time chief minister, Digvijaya Singh. The exit polls indicate of a victory for Thakur.
Sharma said the state government would appeal in a higher court to reopen the Joshi murder case, adding that the Dewas collector had been asked to submit a report.
"We will seek a legal opinion on that report and then take a decision about moving a higher court," Sharma said, claiming that the then district collector took a decision about not filing a review without asking the law department for legal opinion.
"The district collector should have sent the report to the law department instead of deciding that there was no need to move a higher court," the minister said.
The NIA had been moving from pillar to post for getting the Joshi murder case transferred to it from the Madhya Pradesh police, which was then headed by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The then BJP-led state government was initially reluctant in handing over the case, but finally had to give in.
Joshi, who had been chargesheeted by the NIA in connection with the Samjhauta Express blast in 2007, was considered an important link to alleged acts of right-wing terror. He was shot dead when he was walking back to his hideout in Chuna Khadan locality in Dewas town.
The state police had also filed a charge sheet in the Joshi murder case against Thakur, against whom charges had been framed by a special court in the Malegaon blasts case that left nine people dead. She is presently out on bail.
After the BJP-led NDA came to power at the Centre in 2014, the NIA shifted the Joshi murder case back to the Madhya Pradesh police, saying it found no terror angle in the case. Joshi has been named as an accused in the NIA charge sheet on the 2007 Samjhuta train blasts that left over 60 people dead.
Under the previous UPA dispensation, the NIA had filed several applications before courts in Madhya Pradesh, seeking directions to the state police to hand over the investigation to it.
The MP police, after having closed the Joshi murder case earlier, reopened it and filed a charge sheet in Dewas, alleging Thakur and four others had murdered him as the accused feared he might expose the entire conspiracy from Samjhauta to Ajmer blasts.
The NIA, which had taken over the case in 2013, filed a supplementary charge sheet in August 2015, over a year after the Modi government took office. It said since no "scheduled offence" had been found during the probe, the designated NIA court might transfer the matter to any other court for taking cognizance of the offence.
The anti-terror agency ruled out any larger conspiracy, reducing the case to one of simple murder by contending that "licentious advances" made by Joshi to Thakur had angered her accomplices who killed him.
The court had in February 2017 acquitted Thakur and seven others, observing that the state police and the NIA conducted the probe with "prejudice" and produced "weak and self-contradictory evidence".
"The contradictory evidences by police and NIA in the case raised serious doubts in the whole case," Rajiv Madhusudan Apte, the additional district and sessions judge, said while acquitting Thakur, Harshad Solanki, Vasudev Parmar, Patel, Anandraj Kataria, Lokesh Sharma, Rajendra Choudhary and Jitendra Sharma.