By Staff Reporter,

Mumbai: A special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court has dropped charges under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) 1999 against the 23 persons arrested in connection with an e-mail sent out five minutes before the Gujarat 2008 blasts blamed on Indian Mujahideen.

Irked with the latest development, crime branch officials have declared it will appeal against the order of special court before the Bombay High Court.

The order by the special MCOCA court on Wednesday comes as a major setback to the city Crime Branch as its case is completely based on the alleged confessional statements of 13 accused in the case. The case will become ineffective in the absence of stringent MCOCA charges and the accused can now possibly get bail too.

The court has already granted bail to seven accused in the case due to insufficient evidence to support prosecution case against them. Mumbai crime branch had investigated the case in the aftermath of the August 23, 2008 Ahmedabad blast. The prosecution charge sheet claimed the accused had sent out email – especially to the media – claiming responsibility of the blasts.

This comes as a second setback to the agency. Earlier, the special court had quashed MCOCA charges in February this year in Pune’s Jangli Maharaj Road blasts case of 2012. Incidentally, that case too is alleged to have been orchestrated by Indian Mujahideen. The state had, on expected lines, appealed in the JM Road blast case before the Bombay High Court.

The special Judge A L Pansare, who has been hearing both these cases, had earlier observed while discharging the accused from MCOCA charges in JM Road Pune blasts case: “The act alleged is admittedly a terrorist act which may also be called an act of insurgency but by no stretch of imagination can it be called an act of promoting insurgency.”

“In any case it is held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that insurgency per se is not punishable under MCOC Act”.

“…if the crime alleged in the present case is examined, it is not the case of prosecution that the organization named “Indian Mujahideen” has ever acted as organized crime syndicate or has ever indulged in the organized crime for gaining pecuniary benefits or gaining undue economic or other advantages, particularly in terms of the object of MCOC Act.”

During the argument of applicability of MCOCA charges in the email case of 2008, public prosecutor had contended that even though the court revoked MCOCA in JM Road case, it cannot do so in threat email case as the charges have been framed in the later case.

The defence lawyer that included Supreme Court senior lawyer Mahmood Pracha and Bombay High Court senior lawyer Sharif Shaikh argued that the court is empowered to amend the charges anytime during the trial as per provisions under sec. 216 of Criminal Code and sec. 11 of MCOC Act 1999.

The special judge finally agreed with the defence and quashed the MCOCA charges and sent the case proceedings to the lower court for trial.

The defence lawyers are rejoiced with the revocation of stringent charges as they hope that the accused can easily get bail from the Sessions Court in the absence of MCOCA charges that treats statements given by accused before police officer of the rank of SP as admissible evidence against accused.

Jamiat advocate Shahid Ansari told, “The court has orally pronounced the order. We expect the grounds of quashing of MCOCA to be the same as in JM Road case. The actual order is under dictation.”

Meanwhile, fearing the wider implication of the above order of dismissing MCOCA charges, the prosecution agency has shown full resolve of challenging the order of revocation of MCOCA before the High Court.

Till date, seven accused have already been granted bail under the MCOCA charges by special court and Bombay High Court in different cases.