Almost one-and-a-half years ago, when the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court denied bail to him in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blasts case, Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit was almost in tears. He was hopeful of getting bail as the Supreme Court had, in 2015, ruled that the stringent MCOCA was not applicable in his case.
The public prosecutor told him: "Don't worry. There is nothing against you (in the case)." Purohit rushed outside the court room to his wife Aparna, who was waiting with their younger son Yashovardhan. He said, "I will fight the case till the Supreme Court."
On August 22, when he was released on conditional bail following an order by the SC, Purohit became the second high-profile accused in this case after Sadhvi Pragya Singh to breathe a sigh of relief.
"It's a huge relief. I am happy that the family could stay together again," said Aparna, who had to stop her medical practice since Purohit's arrest as she had to shuttle between Pune and Mumbai to attend the court hearings.
That was the only time when she could meet Purohit, who was brought to the court from the central prison at Taloja in Navi Mumbai. She says she is proud of her husband because he is a true patriot. "He has suffered from many things but he won't reveal it to anyone."
Pragya Thakur, the other high-profile accused, has also got bail in the case.
Purohit is out but several mysteries in this case remain. The bail to Purohit is a tight slap for the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), which left many loopholes in the investigation.
The answer to the question of who conspired to execute the blast that left six people dead and more than 70 injured on September 29, 2008 is still awaited.
Why was the charge sheet delayed?
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over the probe from the ATS on Aril 13, 2011. They have not yet filed a charge sheet against Purohit. An insider says NIA delayed filing of the charge sheet for two reasons: Purohit had challenged the application of the stringent MCOCA against him in the SC. NIA was waiting for the SC's verdict, which eventually went in Purohit's favour in 2015 as SC made it clear that he cannot be charged under the MCOCA. At the same time, the Army had initiated a court of inquiry against Purohit - and its outcome is still pending.
Had the NIA filed a charge sheet and Purohit secured bail, it would have been a big embarrassment for the then UPA government.
Purohit and RDX
The ATS had alleged that Purohit had provided RDX for the blast. The RDX was concealed in an MLM Freedom motorcycle that caused the blast. On the contrary, NIA admitted that the RDX found in another accused Major Ramesh Upadhyay's house at Devlali, Nashik was actually planted by ATS officer Jagdish Bagde to falsely implicate him.
It is not yet clear on whose instructions Bagde had planted the RDX. As then ATS chief Hemant Karkare, then home minister RR Patil and then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh are dead, the only people who could elaborate on the truth are P Chidambaram and Sushikumar Shinde, who served as home ministers under the UPA.
In the past, Purohit had alleged that he has been a victim of political crossfire. Upon his release, he refused to speak on the subject.
Where is Ramchandra Kalsangara?
The ATS, in its charge sheet, had mentioned that two aides of Sadhvi Pragya Singh, Ramchandra Kalsangara and Sandeep Dange were also involved in planning and execution of the blast. Neither ATS nor NIA have been able to trace them till date. Both of them were reportedly seen in Jharkhand in 2013 but the NIA could not nab them. If caught they can throw some light on the conspiracy.
What happened to Dilip Patidar?
The ATS had named Dilip Patidar, a resident of Dewas, MP, as a witness in this case. He was a tenant of Ramchandra Kalsangara. The ATS had taken him into custody a fortnight after the blasts.
They were supposed to produce him in a court at Vikhroli, Mumbai. However, Patidar has been missing since then. The ATS claims that he escaped from custody but his wife Padma refuses to believe the agency's assertion.
His brother Ramswarup has filed a habeas corpus petition in the MP High Court which has ordered the CBI to conduct an inquiry against two ATS officers, Ramesh More and Rajendra Ghule.
The Maharashtra government has not yet given its sanction to prosecute them. Why?
Why was the Army silent?
Purohit has time and again claimed that he had kept his seniors in the Army in the loop about his "infiltration" in the organisation Abhinav Bharat, which was planning something big to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra. Purohit had made several entries in the Army's book elaborating the contacts he had established in the organisation. The entries were considered as proof in his court of inquiry.
That is why the Army did not disown him. Why did the Army allow ATS to take him into custody when the seniors were aware of his activities.
Was the prosecutor pressured?
Public prosecutor Rohini Salian alleged that the NIA had asked her to go slow in the case so that the accused got benefit. If the NIA was consistent in opposing bail to Purohit, why did it pressure Salian to go slow?
It is not yet clear whether the request was an official NIA stand or an individual request by an officer. If it was an official stand, why has the state government kept the officer in question waiting for posting?
Where is the evidence?
Purohit has claimed that he has gathered explosive evidence pertaining to several politicians' links with the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), 1993 Mumbai blasts accused Dawood Ibrahim and other terrorist fundraisers.
He has also reportedly submitted a list of politicians, social workers and journalists who are sympathisers of Naxalites to his seniors in the Army. The list has not yet become public.
Does any such list exist? If yes, why it is yet under wraps?
What about the plot?
The ATS had claimed that another accused Dayanand Pandey had plotted to kill RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat because he was lenient on the issue of Hindu Rashtra. The agency had claimed that Purohit was aware of the plot. But it is not yet clear whether there was a plot, what was planned and who was supposed to execute it.
Did Sadhvi and Purohit ever meet?
The ATS had charged that Sadhvi Pragya and Purohit were part of the same module. It, however, does not elaborate whether they ever met and discussed the conspiracy. It also does not give details of how Pragya and Purohit came into contact.
Who killed Sunil Joshi?
The ATS had alleged that former RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi was one of the conspirators. Joshi was using the motorcycle registered in Pragya's name, which was used in the blast. Pragya claims she had sold the motorcycle to Joshi who had not registered it in his name. The RSS man was later found dead in Dewas. Both ATS and NIA have not yet been able to locate his killers.
Purohit also stands accused of illegal possession of weapons. The case is based on the testimony of Captain Nitin Joshi who had stated before the ATS that Purohit had given him the weapons for safekeeping.
Nitin Joshi did not retract his statement in the court, paving the way for a trial against Purohit.
He has filed a petition with the Maharashtra Human Rights Commission alleging that the ATS had extracted the statement at gunpoint. Even if the court finds Purohit guilty of possessing weapons illegally, he will not be imprisoned because he has already spent more than eight years, the maximum punishment for the crime, in jail.
However, in that case, he will not be able to don the Army uniform again.