The Supreme Court on Monday rejected anticipatory bail plea of activists Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha, with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) contending that the offence they were accused of was one against the nation.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M R Shah, however, turned down the agency’s plea that they should not be given any further time to surrender, and allowed them three weeks for this. The court asked the duo to surrender their passports forthwith.
The two had moved the apex court after a single-judge bench of Bombay High Court rejected their pleas for anticipatory bail.
Several activists, including Navlakha and Teltumbde, were booked by Pune Police for their alleged Maoist links and other charges following the violence at Koregaon Bhima village near Pune on January 1, 2018. The accused deny the allegations.
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Appearing for Teltumbde, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said investigators had not recovered anything from him but was accusing him on the basis of some letters said to have been recovered from others. He said Teltumbde was being charged on the basis of “hearsay” evidence and wondered how the material, unless recovered directly from Teltumbde, could become evidence against him.
Assuring to abide by any condition if protected from arrest, Sibal urged the court to take into account Teltumbde’s credentials as an academic. But the bench said, “(The) allegations are material, not credentials.”
Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, who appeared for Navlakha, said no charge under UAPA was part of initial FIRs, and UAPA was added in May 2018, after which Navlakha has not been called for interrogation.
Singhvi said the letters being attributed to him were also not recovered from him, but from some computer, and it had been attributed to another accused – Rona Wilson. “If I was indulging in all these letter exchanges, they should have called me for interrogation at least once. But they didn’t,” said Singhvi, adding that Navlakha was protected from arrest for the last nearly one-and-a-half years by court orders.
“I have spoken out against Left-wing extremism. I am against violence,” Singhvi said on Navlakha. He said the activist is “not a violent revolutionary who is carrying arms”, although he may have intellectual opposition to policies of the State.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for NIA, which took over the probe recently from Pune Police, said one of the accused in the case was Deepak Teltumbde, brother of Anand Teltumbde, who has been absconding since long, and on whose head Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra governments had announced rewards.
Objecting, Sibal said Deepak had been away from home since the last two decades and Anand had no contacts with him during this period.
Mehta said Rona Wilson was the head of the communication cell (Delhi) of CPI (Maoist). “All letters were routed though him. They (accused) are…internally connected, shows investigation conducted so far,” he said.
Referring to a statement by a surrendered Maoist leader, S-G Mehta said it spoke about Maoists preparing an army of tribals in the forests to fight the government. Leaders were also trained and send to groom students for armed struggle, he told the court.
On Teltumbde, Mehta said “we have collected material which we have not placed on chargesheet” and there were call records “which show that he was in continuous touch with other accused”.
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