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NIA opposes Sudha Bharadwaj’s bail plea: ‘Taking undue benefit of pandemic’

In her plea, 58-year-old Bharadwaj, who is lodged in Byculla women’s jail in Mumbai, had sought interim bail on the ground that she suffers from two severe comorbidities – diabetes and high-blood pressure.

The NIA filed its reply to an appeal filed by Bharadwaj’s lawyers against the special court rejecting bail to her.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) last week opposed the bail application of lawyer and former professor Sudha Bharadwaj, arrested in the Elgaar Parishad case, before the special NIA court stating that she is “taking undue benefit” of the Covid-19 pandemic in seeking interim bail on medical grounds.

The NIA filed its reply to an appeal filed by Bharadwaj’s lawyers against the special court rejecting bail to her.

In her plea, 58-year-old Bharadwaj, who is lodged in Byculla women’s jail in Mumbai, had sought interim bail on the ground that she suffers from two severe comorbidities – diabetes and high-blood pressure. She has submitted that she also has a history of pulmonary tuberculosis and therefore is at a high risk of contracting coronavirus in prison, which could be life-threatening due to her pre-existing medical condition.

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The NIA, in its reply, said that the argument about her medical condition has no merit, as she has been suffering from “some chronic illness” since 20 years and is undergoing prescribed medication for the same. It added that she is being provided with necessary medical assistance in the jail.

“It is clear that the pleading with regard to the medical condition of the petitioner is merely a ruse to obtain an order of interim relief, which is not available to the petitioner otherwise on the merits of the case,” the reply stated. The agency claimed that the evidence against Bharadwaj so far does not entitle her to seek any relief on any grounds.

With a state-appointed high-powered committee constituted on the orders of the Supreme Court recommending the release of all undertrials with certain exceptions, Bharadwaj had said in her appeal that given her susceptibility to the virus, she can be considered for interim bail.

But the NIA while maintaining that the committee has directed that bail be considered based on perusal of the circumstances of each case, has claimed that Bharadwaj was working for Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee, a “frontal organisation” of banned CPI (Maoist).

It has further said that two other accused in the case – academic Anand Teltumbde and activist Gautam Navlakha – have been arrested on April 14 and further investigation is in progress, which could face “serious damage” if Bharadwaj is released. She has been behind bars since 2018 along with eight others booked in the case. The matter was listed on Tuesday but did not come up for hearing.

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