Following the orders of the special court, Pune City Police on Friday started the procedure to hand over the mirror images of the cloned copies of the electronic data they claimed to have seized from digital material recovered from the accused for their alleged links with the banned CPI-Maoist in the Elgaar Parishad case. A hard disk of 500 GB data was copied and handed over to the defence lawyer.
The special court, which is hearing the Elgaar Parishad case, had allowed the application filed by defence lawyers seeking cloned copies of the electronic data seized from the accused. Defence lawyers had argued that police were making allegations on the basis of seized electronic data and so it was essential for them to study it for putting up a defence.
The first application was filed by the defence lawyer in December 2018.
Then, in March, defence lawyers again filed an application seeking the cloned copies of the digital information, under Section 207 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Opposing the applications, the prosecution had argued that the accused might “misuse” the highly sensitive digital data.
District government pleader (DGP) Ujjwala Pawar had submitted that, “Underground absconding accused persons in this case are yet to be arrested… accused Anand Teltumbde (seeking anticipatory bail) and Gautam Navlakha (seeking quashing of the FIR) approached the Bombay High Court… said proceedings are pending before the High Court and investigation is in progress. In view of these circumstances, there is every possibility that the accused may misuse the said highly sensitive data contained in the said electronic devices (which include incriminated filed, encrypted filed, deleted data, mail communication etc.).”
Prosecution had also said there was a possibility of the absconding accused, after receipt of copies, “transferring 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 disk as well as forensic images of the said electronic devices to the accused persons at this stage.”
Prosecution then stated that, “Incrimination data contained in the electronic devices seized from the possession of the accused is voluminous, there the court, if satisfied, may allow the accused to inspect it either personally or through pleas in the court instead of furnishing copies… the accused persons have received final report of the FSL (forensic science laboratory) in respect of the said data as part of the chargesheet… so their application deserves to be dismissed.”
“The court had ordered that copies of the seized data be given to the defence lawyers. Accordingly, the procedure was started today. However, in two-and-a-half hours, only one copy of one hard disk (HD) with 500 GB memory was prepared today. Now, next date is June 27,” said the defence lawyer Siddharth Patil.
The hard disk was copied in the presence of forensic experts, defence lawyers, prosecution lawyer, investigating officer of the case and the court staff. Police said the entire process of copying the digital material will be videographed.
A police officer said there were several hard disks and only one could be copied, the work of copying the entire data was voluminous and it will take time.
Police have so far booked 23 persons, including top underground former Maoist commander Mupalla Lakshmana Rao alias Ganapathy, researcher Anand Teltumbde and activist Gautam Navlakha under sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. All are alleged to be active members of the banned CPI-Maoist.
In April last year, police teams conducted multicity raids at the houses of suspects booked in the Elgaar Parishad case. Five suspects, including Rona Wilson from Delhi, former Prime Minister Rural Development (PMRD) fellow Mahesh Raut, Sudhir Dhawale from Mumbai, professor Shoma Sen from Nagpur University and Gadling were arrested on June 6. Police claimed to have recovered 25,000 GB (25 TB) electronic data, literature and other items during the raids.
Activist and poet P Varavara Rao, lawyer Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and activist Sudha Bharadwaj were arrested later and more electronic data seized from them.
Recently, police have seized more data during raids at the residence of accused Stan Swamy from Jharkhand.