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Petitions in court, EC seek to bar Sadhvi Pragya from contesting LS polls

A 2008 Malegaon blast victim’s father has moved a Special NIA Court, while political analyst Tehseen Poonawalla has filed a petition in the EC urging it to debar the BJP candidate from Bhopal from contesting the election to be held on 12 May

SNS | New Delhi |

Day after the ruling BJP announced that it was fielding Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur from Bhopal in the Lok Sabha elections, petitions were filed in a court and the Election Commission of India seeking directions to restrain Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur from contesting the polls on the ground that she faces terror charges.

On Thursday, a 2008 Malegaon blast victim’s father moved a Special NIA Court, while political analyst Tehseen Poonawalla filed a petition in the EC urging it to debar the BJP candidate from Bhopal from contesting the election to be held on 12 May.

Thakur is scheduled to file her nominations on April 23, and she has been pitted against Congress leader Digvijaya Singh.

Currently out on bail, she is facing trial under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in a Mumbai court for allegedly conspiring and abetting a terror act and also has murder to criminal conspiracy charges against her.

In his letter to the EC, Poonawalla said: “I would humbly request the Election Commission of India to take further necessary steps to uphold the Model Code of Conduct 2019 and take appropriate action against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and debar her from contesting elections.”

He said “a candidate accused with terror links must not be permitted to contest elections”. Poonawalla said the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had charged her as the “principal conspirator” in the 2008 Malegaon blast in which six people were killed.

“Thakur was in jail for nine years and since 2017, she was out on bail citing health grounds. She is currently facing charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,” he added.

According to existing laws, any Indian citizen above 25 years of age is eligible to contest polls unless convicted for any crime, which involves punishment for two years or more.

In Mumbai, Nisar Ahmed Sayyed Bilal, 59, father of Sayyed Azhar Nisar Ahmed who was killed in the 2008 Malegaon blast, filed an intervention application before the Special NIA Court on Thursday seeking Thakur to be barred from contesting elections saying the trial against her was still under way.

In 2008, Sayyed Azhar Nisar Ahmed was killed in the explosion that took place in Malegaon’s Bhikku Chowk.

In his application, Bilal has argued that Pragya was granted bail on health grounds as she had pleaded that she was “a patient of breast cancer” and was unwell.

However, the petition said, Thakur had been seen participating in various programmes since her release from jail, adding that she misguided the court about her health as she appeared fit to fight elections and campaign in peak summer.

During the hearing for bail, Pragya’s lawyer had in a written statement before the high court said she was suffering from breast cancer and was unable to walk without support.

Opposing Thakur’s bail and her discharge plea, Bilal said even though the NIA did not have anything to say against Thakur, it was his duty to “inform the court about this development which hurt the bomb blast victims massively”.

“That the intervener respectfully prays that accused number 1 (Thakur) may be asked to attend court proceedings here in Mumbai and barred to contest the election as trial is still in progress and petition of cancellation of bail is sub-judice before the Honourable Supreme Court,” Bilal said in his plea.