The nine activists and lawyers arrested in the Elgaar Parishad case were produced before a special court in Pune on Wednesday and three of them were given cloned copies of the data purportedly recovered from the electronic devices seized by the investigators from the accused.
The prosecution handed over the cloned copies in two hard disks to the three accused: activist Sudhir Dhawale of Mumbai, lawyer Surendra Gadling from Nagpur and activist Rona Wilson from Delhi.
However, Gadling and another accused Arun Ferriera, who is also a lawyer, raised objections, saying there was no mention of ‘hash values’ on the document given by the prosecution along with the hard disks.
Special Judge S R Navandar asked them to accept the hard disks and submit their objections in “black and white” before the court. He said “all objections will be decided” on, and also asked the cyber expert present in the court to assist him, as well as the prosecution and the accused in the case. The next hearing in the case is on December 4.
Meanwhile, the prosecution will also be handing over similar cloned copies to the rest of the accused. One set of cloned copies will also be given to the court.
During earlier hearings, defence lawyers had argued that police have been making allegations on the basis of electronic data purportedly seized from the accused, and so it was essential for them to study it, for putting up their defence.
The first application in this regard was filed by a defence lawyer in December 2018. In March this year, defence lawyers again filed an application seeking cloned copies of “seized digital information”, under Section 207 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973.
The special court had allowed the applications filed by defence lawyers, following which the process of preparing cloned copies of the “seized information” was started in June in the presence of forensic experts, defence lawyers, the prosecution lawyer, investigation officer of the case and the court staff.
Police said the process of preparing cloned copies is also being videographed.
Police have so far booked 23 persons, including former Maoist commander Mupalla Lakshmana Rao alias Ganapathy, researcher Anand Teltumbde and activist Gautam Navlakha, in this case under sections of the Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Pune City Police has alleged that all of them are active members of the banned CPI-Maoist.
In April last year, police teams had conducted multi-city raids at the houses of suspects booked in the Elgaar Parishad case. Five suspects, including Wilson, Dhawale, Gadling, former Prime Minister Rural Development fellow Mahesh Raut and Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen were arrested on June 6.
Police claimed to have recovered 25,000 GB (25 TB) electronic data, literature and other items from the suspects during the searches. Later, activist and poet P Varavara Rao, lawyer Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and activist Sudha Bharadwaj were arrested later and more electronic data was allegedly seized from them. Recently, police claimed to have seized more data during a raid at the residence of accused Stan Swamy from Jharkhand and Hany Babu, a professor in Delhi.