Activist Rona Wilson, an accused in the Elgaar Parishad case, on Thursday told a special court that he has written to the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court seeking a suitable bench to hear and dispose of a petition filed by him in a time-bound manner, as five benches have, so far, recused themselves from hearings on the case.
Wilson had, in February 2021, moved a petition before the high court citing the report of a US-based digital consultant which said that his computer was ‘infected with malware’ planted two years before his arrest in 2018. The last effective hearing before the high court on Wilson’s petition was on August 4, 2021, on the point of its maintainability.
On Thursday, Wilson told the special court that he has written to the Chief Justice, seeking permission to affirm it before sending it to him. Special public prosecutor Prakash Shetty told the court that since Wilson is in judicial custody, any correspondence has to be done through the jail authorities, as per procedure. Wilson told the court that he doubted whether it would be sent from the jail as letters sent to his co-accused Surendra Gadling were not provided to him in the past. “In the event any application is sought to be sent by the accused to the Honourable Chief Justice from prison, the jail superintendent shall permit the accused to send the same affirmation at the jail,” Special Judge Rajesh Katariya said.
Wilson, in his letter, said he has raised fundamental questions regarding the case of the prosecution and has sought that the case against him and his co-accused be quashed. “That the hearing of the petition is continuously being delayed for want of a Bench of the Honourable High Court ready and willing to hear the said matter. As evident from the court record, almost five benches have chosen to recuse themselves from hearing petitions/applications dealing with the said offence,” the letter reads. It adds that in August, the Supreme Court had directed the special court to decide on the discharge applications and the framing of charges against the accused within three months. “..hence there is urgency in hearing and disposing the petition as it has an immediate bearing on the framing of charges,” the letter further states. It seeks that the case be assigned for its disposal in a time-bound and dedicated manner.
In his petition, Wilson asked for formation of an SIT comprising experts in digital forensic analysis presided over by a retired high court or Supreme Court judge to probe the alleged planting of fabricated documents in his computer over the course of 22 months.
The petition also sought quashing the order of sanction to prosecute all the accused, along with the chargesheets filed against them. The initial investigation of the computer was carried out by Pune police, which also prepared the chargesheet against Wilson and others. The NIA took over the Elgaar Parishad case in January 2020. The chargesheet, in which he and 15 other academics and activists are named, accuses them of conspiring against the Union government. Wilson’s petition was first placed before Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale in April last year and heard till August when the assignment of the benches changed. In April this year, a bench led by Justice SS Jadhav recused itself from all matters pertaining to the case. In June, Justice Revati Mohite-Dere recused herself from a petition linked to the case. Previously, three other benches had recused themselves in matters related to the case.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the court also heard arguments on applications filed by Anand Teltumbde and Sagar Gorkhe seeking mosquito nets in Taloja jail. The NIA said this should be as per prison rules. The court had previously asked the jail authorities to take all necessary precautions against mosquitoes. After co-accused Vernon Gonsalves was infected with dengue this year, Teltumbde and Gorkhe again moved pleas seeking mosquito nets. Lawyer Deepa Punjwani submitted before the court that he is in the prison hospital because of various ailments and the prison manual has provisions for a mosquito curtain in malaria-prone areas. She submitted that prison rules have provisions for necessities and the mosquito net can be considered as one. The court has sought a reply from the prison.