SC says Sudha Bharadwaj has ‘good grounds’ for bail on meritsUpdated: Sep 25, 2020, 00:17 IST
New Delhi The Supreme Court on Thursday observed that lawyer and activist Sudha Bharadwaj, who is an accused in a case related to caste clashes that broke out in Bhima Koegaon near Pune on New Year’s Day in 2018, has “good grounds” to seek bail on the merits of her case, but declined to entertain her bail plea, which she filed on medical grounds.
A bench headed by justice UU Lalit said the court was not inclined to grant bail to her on medical grounds, but suggested that she move a plea on standard grounds.
“We are not with you on medical grounds. You have a good case on merits. Why are you not filing for bail on merits,” the bench, which also comprised justice Ajay Rastogi ,asked.
Bharadwaj’s counsel Vrinda Grover agreed to withdraw the bail plea on medical grounds and file for bail on the merits of the case.Bharadwaj, 59, sought bail citing her vulnerability to Covid -19 because of comorbidities. Bharadwaj is diabetic and also suffers from hypertension and had cited these as grounds for interim bail before the high court.
The Bombay high court rejected her plea on August 28 after which she moved the Supreme Court in appeal.
Bharadwaj was arrested by Maharashtra police in 2018 for allegedly inciting caste clashes during the bicentennial celebration of a British-era war on January 1 that year.One person died and four were injured in the clashes. The British East India Company, which largely comprised the Mahars, a Dalit community, emerged victorious from the war with the Peshwas. The victory is celebrated by the Mahar community annually.
Bharadwaj along with activists Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Anand Teltumbde, and Gautam Navlakha have been charged with offences under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for their alleged role in inciting the violence.
After the change of government in Maharashtra in 2019, the central government had intervened and transferred the investigation from Maharashtra police to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in January. Bharadwaj, who was initially lodged at Yerawada jail in Pune, was shifted to Byculla jail in February 2020 after the probe was transferred to NIA.
Grover, on Thursday, argued that Bharadwaj had developed two new diseases while in custody -- ischemic heart disease and arthritis.
A medical report of July 21 stated that Bharadwaj was suffering from Ischemic heart disease, a condition in which coronary artery becomes narrow, thereby reducing blood flow to the heart. A second medical report which was submitted on August 21 by the jail authorities did not mention such a condition, following which the high court had rejected her bail plea.
“Ischemic heart disease is a ticking time bomb. Anytime, her condition can deteriorate,” Grover said, seeking bail so that Bharadwaj can be subjected to a detailed medical examination.
Grover also submitted that Bharadwaj was a lawyer in Chhattisgarh who used to fight cases on behalf of marginalised sections of the society.
“No incriminating material was recovered from me. I was teaching at National Law University, Delhi when I was arrested,” Grover argued on behalf of her client.
“My prayer is to allow me to get myself (medically) examined because the kind of check-up and tests which are required cannot happen in jail,” the lawyer said.
The court, however, made it clear that it will not grant bail on medical grounds.
Bharadwaj’s bail plea on medical grounds was earlier rejected by a special NIA court on May 29.