A special court in Pune Friday rejected bail applications filed by activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, who were arrested by the Pune city police on August 28 in connection with the Elgaar Parishad case, for their alleged links with the banned CPI-Maoist.
The trio was arrested along with P Vara Vara Rao and Gautam Navlakha, but all five were then put under house arrest as per the order issued by the Supreme Court. The house period of four weeks for the trio ends today. Defence lawyers of Bharadwaj, Ferreira and Gonsalves said they would be filing application before the court seeking time of one week in applying before a higher court for challenging the lower court’s order.
The FIR in the case, lodged by Pune resident Tushar Damgude on January 8, initially named Harshali Potdar, Sudhir Dhawale of Republican Panthers, Sagar Gorkhe, and Ramesh Gaichor, Jyoti Jagtap, Deepak Dhengle of the Pune-based Kabir Kala Manch. It claimed that the accused, as per the strategy of the CPI- Maoist, “mislead the Dalits and spread thoughts of violence” in their minds.
On June 6, police had arrested activist Rona Wilson, Nagpur-based lawyer Surendra Gadling, Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen, former Prime Minister Rural Development fellow Mahesh Raut and Sudhir Dhawale in connection with the case.
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Cops alleged the suspects played a role providing funds of banned CPI-Maoists to Elgaar Parishad. All were charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). On August 28, cops arrested Bharadwaj, Vara Vara Rao, Gonsalves, Ferreira and Gautam Navlakha, alleging them to be part of larger plan of banned CPI-Maoist to form a front called “Anti Fascist Front” to overthrow the democratic government.
Later on September 28, SC dismissed a petition for a SIT probe in the case filed by Romila Thapar and others and said the five activists would remain under house arrest for four weeks. But the court had also said the accused could seek legal recourse at the appropriate court. On Thursday, a high court in Hyderabad extended Vara Vara Rao’s house arrest by three weeks. Earlier, the Delhi High Court had, on October 1, ended Navlakha’s house arrest. The Maharashtra government has moved the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court order.
Accused persons Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Ferreira, Gonsalves, and Bharadwaj had moved their bail applications before special judge K D Vadane in Pune. Opposing the bail applications, district government pleader Ujjwala Pawar had argued that investigation is at a crucial stage. Pawar produced letters recovered from the digital material seized from some of the accused persons claiming that these alleged Maoist communications show and there is a prima-facie evidence to show that accused persons are active members of banned CPI-Maoist.
Defence lawyers Dhairyasheel Patil, Rahul Deshmukh, Yug Choudhary, Ragini Ahuja argued that letters being produced by police as evidence are unverified and make no sense. So Pawar produced two email communications allegedly between P Vara Vara Rao and Ganapathy,the secretary of banned CPI-Maoist.
In these emails exchanged in July this year, Pawar said that the alleged Maoist leader expressed concern about seizure of confidential letters by police and need to find out by whose negligence the letters were leaked, what method or technology was used by intelligence agencies for getting access to these letters and understand full scale of the breach.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a Bombay high court set aside an order of Pune court granting 90 days extension to the police to file a charge sheet against five persons arrested in June in the case. Justice Mridula Bhatkar ruled that the Pune court order giving the extension and thus subsequently extending the custody was ‘illegal’.
Though the order would have facilitated a default bail for the five accused as per the provisions of the law, Justice Bhatkar put a stay on her own ruling from becoming operational till November 1, after state government’s plea for the same for moving the Supreme Court against the same order.
State government then filed a special leave petition in this regard before the SC and hearing on it is expected on Monday. Meanwhile, in the view of high court order, special court in Pune decided to hear the bail applications of Gadling and Sen after November 1. And today the special court rejected bail applications of remaining three accused persons