Updated: July 9, 2021 12:19:18 pm
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday told the Bombay High Court that extension of activist-lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj’s custody in the Elgaar Parishad case and the trial court allowing the Pune Police a 90-day extension to file a chargesheet in 2018 was legal and proper.
Bharadwaj’s lawyers have alleged that Additional Sessions Judge K D Vadane of the trial court was not designated to hear matters regarding scheduled offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The NIA, however, claimed that Judge Vadane was competent under the law as “special judges aren’t different from sessions judges”.
The NIA counsel said that “speedy disposal” was required in sensitive matters pertaining to “national security” and the order passed by the judge on Pune Police’s application was correct.
While pointing out that designated special judges were officiating in special courts in Pune at that time, the HC asked Chief Public Prosecutor Aruna Pai — appearing for the Maharashtra government — to produce documents or records to show that Judge Vadane, who took cognizance of the chargesheet filed by Pune Police against Bharadwaj and co-accused – had the jurisdiction to do so. It asked Pai to produce documents to show that the principal district judge gave powers to Judge Vadne to hear the matter.
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A division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice N J Jamadar was hearing Bharadwaj’s default bail plea – argued by advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhry. Bharadwaj, arrested in August 2018, is currently lodged in Byculla women’s prison in Mumbai.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, representing NIA – which took over case from Pune Police last January – told the court that he did not agree that only a notified special judge could have taken cognizance of the case, as the offences were “serious” and concerned “national security”.
“Scheduled offences being investigated in this case are under UAPA. They concern national security and are considered to be serious offences. The purpose and object of NIA Act is to punish the offender and there has to be expeditious and early disposal of cases. Nothing is above national security. Special judges aren’t different from the sessions judges,” Singh said.
The Bombay High Court will hear the matter again on July 15.
On July 15, along with Bharadwaj’s plea, HC will also hear pleas of eight other co-accused challenging June, 2019 order of Pune sessions court rejecting their default bail pleas. The said eight accused include Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling and Varavara Rao.
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