The accused in the Elgaar Parishad case may “misuse the highly sensitive digital data” seized from them by police, the prosecution told a special court in Pune on Thursday while opposing the pleas file by two of the accused seeking copies of the data.
The two accused, Arun Ferriera and Surendra Gadling, are lawyers themselves and they had sought copies of the data that police claimed to have seized from the accused.
Pune City Police has alleged that the data is from “incriminating files, encrypted files, deleted data and mail communication”, and it contains communications with members of banned outfit CPI-Maoist and other sensitive information.
Arguing against their pleas before Special Judge K D Vadane, District Government Pleader Ujjwala Pawar said the absconding accused in the case were yet to be arrested while some of the other accused, such as Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha, had approached the high courts and the proceedings were pending. Pawar said police was still investigating Teltumbde, Navlakha and the other accused and, in view of these circumstances, “there is every possibility that the accused may misuse the highly sensitive data contained in the electronic devices”.
She claimed that the absconding accused may even use the data “to commit terrorist activities”.
The prosecution argued that there was a possibility that the absconding accused may receive copies of the data and “transfer the said data to the banned CPI-Maoist with the intention to endanger the security, integrity, unity, sovereignty of India….absconding accused may use the said data to commit terrorist activities…..Therefore, it will not be desirable to provide the copies of the hard disks as well as forensic images of the electronic devices to the accused at this stage.”
Pawar also argued that as per provisions of Section 207 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the prosecution has provided copies of the police report and other documents to the accused. “The scientific officer of the regional forensic lab has already calculated a hash value of the electronic devices seized from the accused and it is mentioned in the report which is the part of chargesheet,” she submitted.
The prosecution said the data seized from the accused was “voluminous” and the court could allow the accused to inspect it personally, instead of handing over a copy to them.
“Incrimination data contained in the electronic devices seized from the possession of the accused is voluminous… the court, if satisfied, may allow the accused to inspect it either personally or through the pleader in court instead of furnishing copies…..the accused have received the final report of the FSL in respect of the said data as part of the chargesheet…so their application deserves to be dismissed,” stated Pawar.
Gadling responded by saying the prosecution was “playing” with the court and the data should be given to the accused.
The defence lawyers had earlier argued that police had not followed proper procedure while submitting the electronic data in the court.
The special court is also expected to pass an order on Friday on the bail applications filed by six of the nine accused, Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Gadling, Rona Wilson and P Varavara Rao.
The bail pleas of the rest of the accused — Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferriera and Vernon Gonsalves — are pending before the Bombay High Court. Pune City Police has so far booked 23 persons in connection with the case and alleged that all of them are members of the CPI-Maoist. Police have alleged that the Elgaar Parishad, a one-day conclave held in Shaniwar Wada on December 31, 2017, was organised with help from Maoists.
The nine people arrested in connection with the case last year are prominent activists and lawyers, and all of them have been charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.