May 10, 2016 3:58:52 am
THE SUPREME Court, while granting bail to alleged Maoist Angela Sontakke last week, has taken into account the duration she has been in custody and the fact that she has been acquitted of similar charges in other cases.
In all, 18 cases were lodged against Sontakke after her arrest from Thane in 2011 by the ATS, 16 of which ended with acquittals and discharge. She has already got bail in a case lodged in Gondia and will be released after bail formalities are completed before the trial court.
Sontakke has been lodged in Byculla women’s prison for over five years. “Undoubtedly, the charges are serious but the seriousness of the charges will have to be balanced with certain other facts like the period of custody suffered and the likely period within which the trial can be expected to be completed,” the Supreme Court bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Prafulla Pant said. The court also observed that though Sontakke had been in prison for more than five years, the trial was yet to begin.
“The trial is yet to commence… there are over 200 witnesses proposed to be examined. The accused appellant is a lady. She has also been acquitted of similar charges leveled against her in other cases. Taking into account all the aforesaid facts, we are of the view that the accused appellant should be admitted to bail,” the court stated.
The court has further directed the trial court to impose appropriate conditions on her bail. On Monday, the order was presented before the Mumbai sessions court with the ATS counsel, Special Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian, seeking a day to file a reply on the conditions of bail for Sontakke.
The bail application of three others, Sachin Mali, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaychor, remain pending before the Supreme Court and will be heard in July. The Bombay High Court had previously granted bail to six others arrested along with Sontakke and Sheetal Sathe, who belonged to cultural group Kabir Kala Manch.
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