MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Tuesday refused bail to civil rights activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferriera and Vernon Gonsalves, arrested for having links with Maoists in the aftermath of Bhima Koregaon violence on January 2018.
Justice Sarang Kotwal rejected the bail pleas filed by the three activists while stating that, “There is sufficient material in the charge-sheet against the applicant. There are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation of commission of the offences, punishable under UAPA against the applicant, is prima facie true and hence the applicant cannot be released on bail.”
Bharadwaj, Ferriera and Gonsalves are among the five activists arrested by the Pune police for their links with the Maoists. They are booked under Unlawful Activitis Prevention Act (UAPA) and several other sections of IPC for inciting cast-based violence.
According to the police, the speeches made at Elgar Parishad held on December 31, 2017 fuelled violence at Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018. Police suspect the conference was funded by Maoists and have said that the arrested accused have links with banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).
Justice Kotwal began hearing the bail application on August 26 and heard the submission in detail for over a month, which is uncharacteristic for a bail application. The court had reserved its verdict last week.
Adv. Mihir Desai, Dr Yug and Mohit Chaudhary and Sandeep Pasbola, who represented the three activists had raised questions on the authenticity of the evidence. “There was not a single document admissible in law which was produced as an evidence, all the documents were unsigned, unauthenticated and unverified,” they argued.
However, Additional Public prosecutor Aruna Pai had opposed the bail application of the three accused stating that they are active members of frontal groups funded by the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).
The Police had mentioned in the charge sheet that Indian Association of Peoples Lawyers (IAPL) was a frontal organization of CPI(Maoist) and the accused were working through this frontal organization to accomplish the objects of the banned organization CPI(Maoist) i.e. destabilizing the country. The charge sheet mentions a few more organizations, like Anuradha Ghandy Memorial Committee (AGMC), Kabir Kala Manch, Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee (PPSC) as the frontal organizations of CPI(Maoist) and stated that the accused were actively involved in recruiting for the CPI(Maoist) through these front organizations.
Pai said that the investigation is still underway and releasing the accused on bail would jeopardise the probe. The accused were initially placed under house arrest in August last year by the Pune Police in Maharashtra and were later taken into custody on October 26, after a sessions court in Pune rejected their bail pleas. The activists, who have been in jail since then, approached the high court last year after the trial court denied bail to them.