As a special city court on Saturday sent her to police custody till November 6, Sudha Bharadwaj, one of the five activists arrested by Pune police in a multi-city operation on August 28, demanded that she be given the same facilities in the court which the government had promised to provide to fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya, who is wanted in a multi-crore loan default case.
In her submission before the court, Bharadwaj’s lawyer told the court about her illnesses and sought proper food, medication and other care. The lawyer said Bharadwaj should be provided with “conditions of incarceration, bathing and toilet facilities which are on par with those that have been promised to be provided to Vijay Mallya by the state and central government”. Mallya, currently in London, had cited the bad condition of jails in the country as one of his arguments to convince a London court to not extradite him to India. In response, the Indian agencies had made a submission before that court, giving details of the facilities that were available to prisoners in India.
Bharadwaj was arrested from Gurgaon and brought to the city on Friday evening, after the city court had rejected her bail application on Friday. The Supreme Court had also, on Friday, refused to make an emergency intervention to stop her arrest. She was produced in the city court, which sent her to police custody till November 6 after about an hour of arguments. Earlier in the day, the same court had also sent two other activists, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, arrested along with Bharadwaj, to police custody for the same period. The two had been arrested on Friday, from Mumbai and Thane respectively, within hours of the Pune court rejecting their bail applications.
During the arguments in the court in the evening, Bharadwaj also requested that she be provided proper sanitary wear, fresh clothing, and complete privacy for changing clothes, and that, at no point of time should she be kept alone with a male police officer. She also sought bedding and chair in lock up.
Bharadwaj said being an elderly woman suffering from diabetes, she also needed timely medication and a controlled diet.
Prosecution lawyer Ujjwala Pawar said she will be provided proper food and medication in the lock-up, as per the advice of doctors. The government lawyer also told the court that lock-up of Pune city police was in good hygienic condition and all essential facilities would be provided to the accused. Special Judge K D Vadane allowed her requests for all medical facilities. Bharadwaj was then taken to Faraskhana lock-up under police cover.
Earlier in the day, Ferreira and Gonsalves were taken to the lock-up at Lashkar police station.
The three, along with two others, Gautam Navlakha and P Varavara Rao, were arrested by Pune Police on August 28 this year for their alleged links with CPI-Maoist. However, the Supreme Court had put them under house arrest till Friday, October 26, and asked them to seek regular judicial remedy from the appropriate courts. Bharadwaj, Ferreira and Gonsalves had then moved the Pune court for bail, which was rejected on Friday. Navalakha and Varavara Rao have managed to get temporary relief from different courts. A Hyderabad court had, on Wednesday, given Rao protection from arrest for three weeks. The Bombay High Court on Friday ordered Pune police not to arrest Navalakha till November 1.
Arguing for the police in the court on Friday, prosecution lawyer Ujjwala Pawar told the city court that Bharadwaj was an “active member” of the CPI-Maoist and the police needed to question her about her activities. Pawar told the court that probe so far has revealed that Bharadwaj had sought funds from the CPI-Maoist for Indian Association of People’s Lawyer, an alleged front of the banned group.
Earlier in the day, while seeking police remand of Ferreira and Gonsalves, Pawar argued that that the two had been recruiting youth from educational institutions like the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and Jawaharlal Nehru University for CPI-Maoist and were deploying them in “interior” areas. Pawar said custodial interrogation of the accused was required to know how they used to execute their recruitment operations.
Pawar also claimed that police investigations so far had revealed that Ferreira and Gonsalves were also involved in channelising funds from the CPI-Maoist to the front organisations of the banned group. Pawar said police custody of the accused was essential for investigating their fund-raising and fund transfer operations. Pawar said that bank accounts of the accused also needed to be probed.
Meanwhile, defence lawyer Siddharth Patil, representing Ferreira, claimed that the Pune police were in contempt of the Supreme Court order as it had arrested his client on Friday. “The accused (Ferreira and Gonsalves) were put under house arrested by the Supreme Court for four weeks. The time of house arrest was till 12 midnight on Friday. But the police arrested them around 6 pm. This is contempt of court,” he said.