Bhima Koregaon case: HC grants bail to Mahesh Raut after five years
The division bench of justice AS Gadkari and justice Sharmila Deshmukh ordered the 34-year-old, who was arrested by the Pune police on June 6, 2018, to be released on bail on executing a personal bond of ₹1 lakh and one or two sureties in the same amount. The bench also paved the way for his immediate release from jail by allowing him to provide cash bail initially and granting him eight weeks to furnish solvent sureties
Mumbai: Observing that there was no material to prove terrorism charges levelled against the accused, the Bombay high court on Thursday granted bail to researcher Mahesh Raut, who was arrested in 2018 for his alleged connection with the Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon violence case.
The division bench of justice AS Gadkari and justice Sharmila Deshmukh ordered the 34-year-old, who was arrested by the Pune police on June 6, 2018, to be released on bail on executing a personal bond of ₹1 lakh and one or two sureties in the same amount. The bench also paved the way for his immediate release from jail by allowing him to provide cash bail initially and granting him eight weeks to furnish solvent sureties.
The bench granted Raut bail primarily on the grounds that there was no material to support the accusations levelled against Raut which attracted harsh sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The bench said from the material available on record it could at the most be said that Raut was a member of an unlawful association, Communist Party of India (Maoists), providing for a maximum punishment of 10 years imprisonment.
“In the present case, the incriminating material does not in any manner prima-facie lead to draw an inference that the appellant (Raut) has committed or indulged in a terrorist act as contemplated under section 15 of UAP Act,” the bench said.
“We are of the prima-facie opinion that based on the material placed before us by the NIA, it cannot be said that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusations against the appellant are prima-facie true to attract sections 16, 17, 18, 20 and 39 of UAP Act,” it added. The sections refer to terrorist activities.
NIA alleged that Raut was a member of the proscribed CPI(M), was instrumental in recruiting people for the group and was involved in anti-national activities as such. The federal agency also accused him of handling the finances of the banned organisation.
Raut, who had moved the high court in February last year, after the special NIA court rejected his bail plea on November 23, 2021, had contended that there was no material to substantiate the allegations against him and the documents relied upon by the federal agency were in the form of hearsay.
The bench accepted the contention, saying two letters which stated that an amount of ₹5 lakh had been handed over to Raut for onward transmission to other accused in the case, were recovered from computers of co-accused Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling, and as such had weak probative value. “The contents of these letters through which the appellant (Raut) is sought to be implicated are in the form of hearsay evidence recovered from co-accused,” the bench said.
The bench added that even if the contents of the letters were assumed to be true, there was no corroboration to support that Raut had received the money and handed it over to the co-accused.
The court also refused to accept NIA’s claim that the 34-year-old was instrumental in recruiting people for a banned organisation, observing, “No evidence of any of the persons who are alleged to have been recruited or have joined the organisation through the appellant has been produced on record.”