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Monday, July 26, 2021

‘Sessions judge competent to extend custody’: Govt opposes Sudha Bharadwaj’s default bail application

They have also alleged that the judge was not authorised as a “special judge” to take cognisance of the supplementary chargesheet filed by Pune Police in February, 2019.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai |
Updated: July 16, 2021 9:05:20 am
Sudha Bharadwaj. (File)

Opposing the default bail plea filed by Elgaar Parishad case accused Sudha Bharadwaj, the Maharashtra government on Thursday said that the 90-day extension granted to the Pune Police in 2018 by the additional sessions judge of a trial court to file a chargesheet in the case was as per law.

The state was responding to claims made by Bharadwaj’s lawyers, who while referring to responses filed under the referring to Right to Information (RTI) Act availed from the HC Registry, alleged that Additional Sessions Judge K D Vadane of the trial court in Pune was not designated to hear matters regarding scheduled offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

They have also alleged that the judge was not authorised as a “special judge” to take cognisance of the supplementary chargesheet filed by Pune Police in February, 2019.

The government, however, said that though Bharadwaj was booked under UAPA, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act stipulated the need of a special judge only at the time of trial, when the case is being probed by the central agency, and not during pre-trial proceedings.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, representing the state, said that Bharadwaj’s claims were misconceived, as there was no procedural lapse in the sessions judge conducting the proceedings.

A division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice N J Jamadar was hearing Bharadwaj’s default bail plea – argued by advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhry. Bharadwaj, who was arrested in August 2018 and is lodged in Byculla women’s prison in Mumbai, has claimed that as the chargesheet in the case was not filed within the statutory 90-day period, she was entitled to default bail as per the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

The HC on Thursday asked the state why the case was decided by the sessions judge and not the special NIA courts that were constituted during 2018-19.

In reply, Kumbhakoni said: “A special NIA court would come into the picture only after the case was transferred to the NIA on January 24, 2020 as per Centre’s order… and more specifically from February 12, 2020, when the Pune Police actually handed over the case to the agency.”

The bench then sought state’s response on Bharadwaj’s argument that in case a special NIA court was not required, under CrPC, the magistrate could have passed the extension order and not the sessions judge.

To this, Kumbhakoni said: “So long as the case is not entrusted to the NIA, it will continue before ordinary courts. It is not palatable that one Act creates offences but another Act decides how they are tried.”

The HC will hear the case next on July 23.

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