Published: 15th October 2019
They are active Maoists, recruited cadres: Bombay HC refuses bail to 3 activists in Bhima-Koregaon case
The police booked the three and several other activists under the provisions of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC)
The Bombay High Court refused bail on Tuesday to activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, arrested for allegedly inciting caste-based violence at Koregaon-Bhima in Pune and Maoist links, noting that they were "active members" of banned outfit CPI (Maoist).
Justice Sarang Kotwal rejected the bail pleas of the three civil liberties activists, observing that there was prima facie evidence against them. In three separate orders, the judge said the accused were active and senior members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and arranged funds for the organisation and recruited cadres.
The Pune police lodged a case against them in January, 2018 after the Elgar Parishad held on December 31, 2017, allegedly triggered violence at Koregaon-Bhima village in Maharashtra's Pune district the next day. The scope of the investigation was not restricted to finding out the object and effect of the programme organised on December 31, 2017, by the Elgar Parishad or carrying out a probe into the violence that followed the event, the court said.
"The investigation was expanded to unearth a much larger conspiracy of seizing political power through an armed revolution by mobilising the masses," it said. Justice Kotwal further said one of the objectives of the banned organisation was defeating the "enemy forces" with the use of weapons and by forming a people's army.
"The state's armed forces were treated as enemy forces by the organisation," the court said. The three were initially placed under house arrest by the Pune police in August last year and later, taken into custody on October 26 after a sessions court in Pune rejected their bail pleas.
The accused, who are in jail since then, approached the High Court last year. The police booked the three and several other activists under the provisions of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
On Ferreira, the court said one of his tasks was to raise, manage and distribute funds in the banned organisation and he occupied an important position in the outfit. "Ferreira's work towards achieving some of the objectives of the banned organisation was not only appreciated by it, but, he was given specific directions on some occasions. This all shows that the applicant was an active member of the banned organisation," the court said. "There is material in the chargesheet to show that prima facie the applicant (Ferreira) had actively worked towards fulfilling that responsibility," the court said. It also noted that Gonsalves' act of recruiting cadres for the banned outfit and being its active member was punishable under the provisions of the UAPA.
"Facts sufficiently establish prima facie that the applicant (Vernon Gonsalves), on instructions of the banned organisation, was recruiting cadres from institutions like TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences)," the court said. It added that the evidence put forward by the prosecution showed that Gonsalves was an important and active member of the CPI (Maoist) and was part of the "larger conspiracy".
"One of the important tasks was recruiting cadres and there is material in the chargesheet to show that prima facie the applicant (Gonsalves) had actively worked towards fulfilling that responsibility," the court said. "The investigating agency has material to show prima facie that the applicant (Gonsalves) is a senior active member of the banned organisation," the court said.
On Bharadwaj, the court said she too was an active and senior member of the CPI (Maoist). The police had earlier alleged that the accused had Maoist links and were working towards overthrowing the government. The three accused, however, claimed that there was no evidence to support the police's case that they and other activists were creating a "war-like" situation against the government.