NIA court declines to prohibit Pragya Thakur from contesting Lok Sabha polls

Written by SabrangIndia | Published on: April 24, 2019
On Wednesday, April 24, a special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court refused to prevent Sadhvi Pragya Thakur from running in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, News18 reported. Judge VS Padalkar said, "In the ongoing elections, this court does not have any legal powers to prohibit anyone from contesting elections. It is job of electoral officers to decide. This court can't stop the accused number 1 from contesting elections. This application is negated". 

Pragya thakur

During the hearing, per ANI, the lawyer for the intervenor contended that Thakur was not attending court proceedings on the grounds that she was unwell, but was campaigning for the election, during which she did not look ill. Per Scroll, Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had expressed a similar sentiment last week, saying "If her health is not good enough to stay in jail, how can she be fit enough to fight polls?" He had tweeted, "What a mockery of the legal system the BJP has made with its candidate for Indore! A person, an under-trial, who stands accused of terrorism; out on bail on health grounds but clearly healthy enough to fight elections in the crippling summer heat. Hindutva rules!" 

The announcement of Thakur contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Bhopal has sparked controversy, first, because Thakur is an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, and also given her multiple provocative remarks, first targeting slain ATS chief Hemant Karkare, and then about the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Following the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) announcement of her candidature, Nisar Ahmed Sayyed Bilal, 59, of Malegaon, Nashik, filed an intervention application in the special NIA court in an effort to restrain Thakur from contesting in the election, Live Law reported on April 18. Bilal’s son, Sayyed Azhar Nisar Ahmed was killed in the September 2008 blast that occurred in Bhukku Chowk, Malegaon; it claimed at least six lives, and resulted in 101 people being wounded, Scroll reported. Per Live Law, Thakur has been charged under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Explosive Substances Act, and the Arms Act in the case. 

In his application, Bilal contended that Thakur was granted bail under the pretext that is ill, and "a patient of breast cancer"; the application says that, in fact, Thakur has been taking part in multiple programmes and issuing "objectionable and instigating speeches" since she was released from prison, Live Law reported. 

In her response to Bilal’s application, Thakur told the NIA court on Tuesday, April 23, that the pending trial "was no bar for her from contesting the election," The Hindu reported, adding that Thakur argued that the Representation of the People Act, 1951 does not have a provision that prohibits a candidate with a criminal case against them from contesting elections. Thakur made note of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, under which she has submitted an affidavit detailing all pending cases against, and said, "Criminal jurisprudence clearly says that unless a person is convicted, he shall be deemed to be innocent," The Hindu reported. Thakur also responded to Bilal’s "allegation about her non-attendance in court," explaining that she was unwell, and underwent a surgery for breast cancer following her release on bail. She also "sought exemplary cost to be imposed upon the intervenor for filing a frivolous application, 'taking liberty with the truth and abusing process of law,’" Live Law reported.

The NIA also filed its response on Tuesday, stating, "The NIA has no jurisdiction to say anything on this matter because the matter of contesting election is not related to this case. It is to be decided by the Election Commission only," the Hindustan Times reported, adding that the NIA claimed that the subject of Thakur’s bail cancellation is pending with the Supreme Court. Per The Hindu, the agency’s reply also noted that it had issued  Thakur a clean chit, and “had recommended in the 2016 chargesheet that there is no evidence to prosecute" her.