NEW DELHI: Noting that the trial against activists accused of engaging in anti-national activities in Elgar Parishad the case is not proceeding and the defendants have remained in custody for the past four years as the accusation was not even formulated, on Friday the Supreme Court set a three-month deadline for the court of first instance to decide simultaneously on the framing of the charges and listened to the defendant’s reasons asking for discharge in the case.
Taking note of the appeal of the National Investigative Agency (NIA) that there are four defendants in the case who have yet to be arrested, a panel of judges UU Lalit and S Ravindra Bhat asked the agency to take measures to separate the trial of the 15 arrested defendants from the others by filing a specific application before the first court grade and also declare the other four as proclaimed offenders.

To catch

The Elgar Parishad case is based on a FIR that the speeches given at the Pune event on December 31, 2017, on the eve of the 200th anniversary of the battle of Koregaon Bhima, contributed to the violence the following day. It was the case of the police that the banned (Maoist) CPI had supported and financed the Elgar Parishad. A separate investigation is looking into the violence a Koregaon Bhima in which one person was killed and many were injured.
Of the 16 accused who were arrested in the Elgar Parishad case, one of them, tribal rights activist Father Stan Swamy, died in custody. Two other accused: the activist and law teacher Sudha Bhardwaj and the Telugu poet Varavara Rao – they got the bail. While Bhardwaj was given the default bail, Rao recently received the bail for medical reasons.

The apex court in its order stated: “The court of first instance should consider whether the charges can be brought against the accused or not and their request for release must also be heard at the same time … The whole exercise must be undertaken within three months “.
The court approved the order while listening to the bail petition Vernon Gonsalves who turned to the court contesting the refusal of the Bombay High Court to grant him bail. He was arrested on August 28, 2018 and has been in custody ever since. The senior lawyer Rebecca John, presenting himself for him, he claimed that three statements concerning him and those recovered from other people’s laptops were not incriminating against his client. He said the statements do not explicitly play any role for him to involve him under the law on illegal activities (prevention).
John further told the bench that the location of the petitioner and other accused had been found in Hyderabad at the relevant time, indicating that Gonsalves was not in Maharashtra at the time of the Bhima Koregaon violence.
Opposing his bail request, additional Attorney General SV Raju, who presented for the NIA, told the bench that Gonsalves had also previously been convicted and sentenced to five years in prison in one case and continued the his activities after getting out of prison. The ASG blamed the defendant in the case for delaying the trial and told the bench that multiple questions were being submitted by each defendant to the court, blocking the case from progressing.
The court did not order Gonsalves’ bail request and kept it pending. He published the hearing in the case after three months in order to pass an appropriate order after taking into account the court proceedings on the framing of the charges and the release of the accused.
Additionally, John said the apex court ordered the NIA to turn over all documents and electronic evidence to the defendant in the case. He said clone copies of the various electronic devices should be handed over, but the court refused to pass an order and asked her to go to court.
Other defendants involved in the case include: activist Sudhir Dhawale, former colleague of Prime Minister Mahesh Raut’s Rural Development Program, retired professor Soma Sen, attorney Surendra Gadling, Rona Jacob Wilson, Arun Fereira, l activist Gautam Navlakha, writer and management professor Anand Teltumbde and Hanybabu Tarayil.
While rejecting Gonsalves’ bail request, the Bombay High Court had stated that there was sufficient material on the indictment sheet against him. “There are good reasons to believe that the charge of committing the offenses punishable under Chapters IV and VI of the UAPA against the applicant is prima facie vera. Considering the express prohibition imposed by Section 43D (5) of the UAPA, the plaintiff cannot be released on bail. The other argument concerning his achievements in the academic field and his continued imprisonment for a long time cannot be taken into consideration, ”the HC said.

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