The Bombay High Court on Tuesday asked Centre, Maharashtra government and National Investigation Agency to file response to a plea by lawyer Surendra Gadling and poet-publisher Sudhir Dhawale, arrested in the Elgaar Parishad case, challenging the transfer of the case to the NIA.
A division bench of Justices S S Shinde and Abhay Ahuja heard the plea through video conference on Tuesday. Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh and advocate Sandesh Patil, appearing for Centre and NIA, sought time to take instructions and file an affidavit in response to the plea.
Gadling and Dhawale, along with seven others, have been behind bars since 2018 after being arrested by Pune Police in connection with the Elgaar Parishad event organised in Pune on December 29, 2017.
Based on a complaint received eight days after the event, the Pune Police had filed an FIR linking “inflammatory speeches” given at the event to the Bhima Koregaon violence that took place on January 1, 2018. The case was transferred to the NIA in January this year. The Pune Police had claimed that the event was part of a criminal conspiracy linked to banned organisation CPI (Maoist).
The petition, filed through advocate Satish B Talekar, stated that there were no compelling reasons for the transfer of the case to NIA, and that no provision empowers the Union government to transfer the probe after it has been completed and trial is set to commence. It added that the case was transferred “due to malafides and political expediency” when the Maha Vikas Agadhi coalition in the state proposed to constitute an SIT to probe the matter.
The petition, which also names former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, stated that the two Hindutva leaders received “state shelter” despite being named in FIRs linked to the assault on Dalits visiting the Bhima Koregaon memorial on January 1, 2018.
“The police administration under the control and supervision of then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis conveniently ignored the serious offences committed by Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote,” it added.
The plea claimed that those who had been criticising the activities of the ruling party were targeted. All 11 accused in the case – Dhawale, Gadling, Teltumbde, Navlakha, Varavara Rao, Mahesh Raut, Vernon Gonsalves, Rona Wilson, Arun Ferreira, Shoma Sen and Sudha Bharadwaj – are currently jailed in Mumbai.
After the authorities sought time to file reply to the plea, the Court granted the same and posted further hearing on July 14.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines