NIA court rejects bail plea of Elgar Parishad accused Mahesh Raut
A special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on Thursday rejected the bail application of forest rights activist Mahesh Raut, arrested in the Elgar Parishad case, for allegedly spreading Maoist ideology and encouraging unlawful activities.
Raut’s counsel, Advocate Vijay Hiremath, informed the court that the forest rights activist has studied in Nagpur and Nashik, and then in 2011 passed out of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). He was teaching in Goa and did a fellowship on conflict zones, he is a former fellow of the prestigious Prime Minister’s Rural Development Programme of the ministry of Rural Development and has worked with the Gadchiroli collector, Hiremath added.
It has been alleged that Raut had provided funds for banned organisations and sent some students to the jungle to join the Naxalite movement. However, the prosecution have not been able to provide a single name, his lawyer claimed. “There is nothing on record about the funding,” said Hiremath. “Equally, the charge-sheet does not contain anything about the allegation that Raut was a recruiter for the Naxalite movement.”
NIA claimed that a letter found on co-accused Rona Wilson’s computer had Raut’s name. In this connection, Hiremath argued that the existence of the letter on the computer was disputed in the report of US-based Arsenal Consulting. On the basis of the report, the case has already been challenged in the High Court. It has been mentioned in the letter about one Mahesh and ₹5 lakh, but the agency has failed to find a money trail and also whether it is the same Mahesh or some other person. “These are all wild allegations,” Hiremath said.
On the other hand, Prakash Shetty who represented NIA argued that Raut had already filed a bail application on similar grounds before a Pune court which was rejected and all the documents that Raut is referring to have already been considered by the Pune court while rejecting his bail plea.
The agency claimed that a letter seized from Rona Wilson’s computer mentioned “Mahesh” and claimed that through unknown channels Raut passed on ₹5 lakh for the Elgar Parishad event to Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen and Surendra Gadling.
The Pune police, who initially investigated the case, had alleged that Raut had taken TISS students to meet absconding underground Maoist leaders in the jungles in 2017. The agency further claimed that Raut recruited two former TISS students for the Maoist Party and that those students underwent arms training in the jungles.