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Elgar Parishad arrests: Pune court rejects bail pleas of civil rights activists

The Pune Police had arrested these three activists along with two others - poet P Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha - on August 28 in connection with the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31. These civil rights activists were charged with inciting violence at Bhima Koregaon the next day as per the investigations done by Pune Police.

pune Updated: Oct 27, 2018 17:10 IST
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Bhima Koregaon,Urban Maoists
Human rights activist Arun Ferreira being arrested from his residence in Thane after the Pune Sessions Court rejected his bail plea in Bhima Koregaon violence case.(PTI/HT)

Nadeem Inamdar

A Pune court on Friday rejected bail pleas of prominent civil rights activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves who were arrested by Pune Police on August 28 for their alleged Maoist links and put under house arrest by the Supreme Court (SC).

Following the rejection of their bail pleas, the Pune Police took Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves into custody as their application seeking more time for relief was rejected by the same court later in the evening.

Additional Sessions Judge KD Vadane rejected the bail applications filed by the three activists saying material presented by prosecution prima facie revealed involvement of activists in the case.

“We will appeal against the Sessions Court’s judgement in Bombay High court” said Dhairyasheel Patil, senior counsel representing Gonsalves.

In his order, Judge Vadane said, “At this stage, from material collected by investigating agency, prima facie, it reveals involvement of present applicants. Moreover the investigation is at very crucial stage, therefore, in my view, the present applicants/accused are not entitled to be released on bail. Hence, the applications being devoid of merit, liable to be rejected”

DEC 31, 2017: Elgar Parishad takes place at Shaniwarwada in Pune.
JAN 1, 2018: Violence in the aftermath of the Bhima Koregaon event erupts, as Dalits and Marathas clash on ocassion of the 200th anniversary observance of the battle fought between the British and the Peshwas.
Bhima Koregaon village, located at Perne phata, Pune district, witnesses large-scale violence leaving one youth dead.
JAN 2, 2018: Hindutva Leader Milind Ekbote, president, Samasta Hindu Aghadi and Sambhaji Bhide of the Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, both right-wing activists, are booked by Pune rural police after several leaders from left-leaning parties name Ekbote and Bhide for their involvement in inciting violence at Bhima Koregaon. Police then arrest Ekbote, who is currenly out on bail.
JAN 8, 2018: Pune city police book activists belonging to Kabir Kala Manch, a left-leaning Dalit outfit, for provocative speeches made during the Elgar Parishad.
JUN 6, 2018: Police arrest Sudhir Dhawale, member of Republican Panthers; Surendra Gadling, lawyer; Rona Wilson, activist; Mahesh Raut, former Prime Minister rural development fellow and Soma Sen, retired Nagpur University professor, for alleged Maoist links. Investigators link the scheme of events to the Elgar Parishad. Arrests are made in Nagpur, Mumbai, Delhi and Pune.
JUN 28, 2018: Police claim to widen scope of the probe and arrest revolutionary writer P Varavara Rao, activists Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj. Supreme Court, however, places them under house arrest.
OCT 1, 2018: Gautam Navlakha is released after Delhi High Court lifts his house arrest.
OCT 26, 2018: Bail plea of Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, three of the activists arrested, rejected by the special sessions court in Pune. Bail application of Soma Sen and advocate Surendra Gadling will be heard after November 1.
1. Emails recovered from accused talk about measures to protect future exchanges of "secret communication", an assessment of damage caused by arrests and steps to rebuild confidence among urban cadres (of Maoists).
2. Prima facie, a strong case exists against the five civil rights activists.
3. They (five arrested activists) participated in a conspiracy to commit unlawful and terrorist activities through unlawful association.
4. Investigation is pending against them since the Supreme Court is hearing the case and they are yet to arrested and interrogated.
1. Senior lawyer Yug Chaudhary (for Sudha Bharadwaj): Supreme Court’s 2:1 fractured verdict on September 28 refusing transfer of Elgar Parishad probe from Pune police to an SIT (special team) is strong enough ground for the release of activist.
2. Senior lawyer Sudeep Pasbola (for Arun Ferreira): Mere association of a person with an organisation that police claim to be a "frontal organisation" of the banned CPI (Maoist) outfit does not make her/him a terrorist. Police have no basis to conclude that the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers is a frontal organisation of the CPI (Maoist).
3. Activist, lawyer Surendra Gadling (defending self): When a dissenting judge expresses an opinion on a point left untouched by the majority view in a Supreme Court (SC) ruling, then that opinion of an SC judge needs to be considered. Mere rebellious speeches (at Elgar Parishad) cannot be termed as an act of terror.
4. Adv Rahul Deshmukh (for Gonsalves): Despite being a Leftist activist, Gonsalves was being accused of inciting right-wing people into rioting at Bhima-Koregaon and the police’ argument is illogical.

SURENDRA GADLING, Nagpur-based Dalit lawyer
Had appeared for Delhi University professor G N Saibaba convicted in 2017 in Gadchiroli for Maoist links.
Pune police arrested Gadling for his alleged links with CPI (Maoist) outfit.
Gadling has been actively fighting cases for those arrested under the draconian Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act 1985, or Tada, and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (Uapa). Police have accused him of plotting to kill PM Narendra Modi.
PROF SHOMA SEN, English professor teaching at Nagpur University
A prominent women’s rights activist.
Connected to several feminist organisations and is also a member of the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights.
She was arrested on charges of stoking violence that disrupted the bicentennial celebrations at Bhima Koregaon in Pune and stands accused of being a "naxal supporter" according to Pune Police.
SUDHIR DHAWALE, Dalit activist
Is regarded as a radical Ambedkarite who published an anti-established magazine called ‘Vidrohi’.
Has been accused as the main organiser of Elgar Parishad at Shaniwarwada in Pune.
Ran the Republican Panthers Jaatiya Antachi Chalwal (Republican Panthers caste annihilation movement) from Mumbai.
Arrested and linked with the violence which erupted in Bhima Koregaon.
RONA WILSON, Human rights activist
A former Jawaharlal Nehru University alumnus.
Wilson has been working for prisoners implicated in terrorism under Uapa.
Phd in the same field and has been accused of being a member of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and also behind the Bhima Koregaon and Elgar Parishad events in Pune.
Former fellow of the Prime Minister’s Rural Development programme.
Pune Police have accused Mahesh Raut of secretly taking students of the Tata Institute of Social Science (Tiss) in Mumbai to forest areas in Maoist strongholds to meet the "underground naxalites", which included Milind Teltumbde, Ritu Goswami, Manglu, Dipu, and Kisan’ alias Prashant Bose, with the aim to train these students in the jungle.
Activists have been arrested under Unlawful Activities and Prevention Act (Uapa) sections 13, 16, 17, 18, 18b, 20, 30, 40; and sections 153(a), 505(1)(b) and 117 and 34 of Indian Penal Code.
Cases heard by Supreme Court who ruled all to be put under house arrest. Navlakha then granted bail
VARAVARA RAO, Telugu poet and author
He has been booked in 25 cases related to alleged Maoist insurgency over the last three decades. No case has been proven in court till date. Pune police accused the Telugu poet of allegedly plotting to assassinate Narendra Modi, helping Maoists buy arms and funding "Urban Naxal" activities.He was arrested on August 28 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (Uapa) for :alleged Naxal activities".
New Delhi based journalist Navlakha has been associated with People’s Union for Democratic Rights. He also writes for the Economic and Political Weekly. He was arrested in a nationwide crackdown on August 28 over alleged Maoist links. Navlakha has been a convener of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir.
Sudha Bharadwaj was arrested from her residence on August 28 by the Pune Police on ground that she was sending students from JNU and Tiss to "naxal infested rural regions" of the country to train them as "naxalites". She is currently under house arrest as ordered by the Supreme Court. Bharadwaj is a visiting professor at the National Law University in New Delhi. She is also the vice-president of Indian Association of People’s Lawyers which the police considers to be a front for the banned CPI (Maoist) organisation.
Activist since his student days. Ferreira is also a cartoonist whose drawings on social and political issues have been published in various publications,. He is a member of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights and the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers.He has been charged under Uapa.
He is a former academic who was taken into custody by the Pune Police regarding investigations into the Bhima-Koregaon violence, which took place in January 2018. He is regarded an anti-establishment activist who has worked in prominent colleges like HR College of Commerce and Economics, and Akbar Peerbhoy College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai. He is also a prolific writer.

The Pune Police had arrested these three activists along with two others - poet P Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha - on August 28 in connection with the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31. These civil rights activists were charged with inciting violence at Bhima Koregaon the next day as per the investigations done by Pune Police.

Referring to conspiracy in the order, Judge Vadane stated: “Since conspiracy is often hatched up in utmost secrecy, it is mostly impossible to prove conspiracy by direct evidence. It has oftener than not been inferred from the acts, statements and conduct of parties to the conspiracy. Thus it is proved that the accused pursued, by their acts, the same object often by the same means, one performing one part of the act and the other another part of the same act so as to complete it with with a view to attainment of the object which they were pursuing, the court is at liberty to draw the inference that they conspired together to effect that object.”

The Supreme Court, on August 29, had put on hold their transit to Pune and directed that they be placed under house arrest at their residences. On September 28, the court, while hearing on their petitions opposing arrests had asked these activists to approach lower courts for relief from the imminent arrest and had given four week’s time for the Pune court to decide on their bail plea.

Among the other two activists, Gautam Navlakha’s arrest was quashed by Delhi High court on October 1 while Telgu poet Varavara Rao approached for bail in the Hyderabad high court. The HC has granted Rao three weeks extension to his house arrest.

The prosecution had argued against the bail of all three Left-leaning activists saying they have “corroborative evidence” against them which establishes their links with the banned CPI (Maoist) organisation. According to the prosecution, Bharadwaj was responsible for “raising funds” and sending recruits from various universities and educational institutes to the forest.

The Sessions court has reserved order on bail pleas of other two activists advocate Surendra Gadling and former Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen till November 1.

HC refuses interim relief to Arun Ferreira

The Bombay high court refused to grant interim relief to Arun Ferreira who approached the high court after his bail application was rejected by the Pune session court on Friday. Meanwhile, civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha’s application for quashing of the FIR against him by the Pune police saw the court grant him interim relief from being arrested till November 1, when the matter will come up for hearing.

Another accused, Professor Ashok Teltumbde, who had also filed a plea for quashing of proceedings against him was not so fortunate as the court refused to grant him any interim relief in light of his anticipatory bail being rejected by a lower court.

A division bench of justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre, while hearing the arguments of Navlakha was informed by advocate Dr Yug Choudhary, that investigators had no evidence against his client till five months after the Bhima Koregaon incident. Choudhary argued that Navlakha’s arrest and that of four other activists was based on assumptions by the investigators probing the Elgar Parishad conclave that was held on December 31, 2017 that their speeches in the conclave had resulted in the Bhima Koregaon violence. As the FIR against Navlakha was based on an assumption it should be quashed.

Advocate Mihir Desai appearing for Teltumbde and Ferreira also prayed for interim reliefs for the duo. While Teltumbde has not been arrested yet, Ferreira’s house arrest ended on Friday. As the applications for anticipatory bail and bail respectively had been rejected by a lower court, Desai filed appeals against the lower court orders, restraining the police from arresting both of them.

However, counsel for the state, Aruna Pai, opposed the plea of the trio. Referring to the Supreme Court order that ordered the house arrest of the five activists, she said that the order had indicated that there was enough evidence against them and as the probe by the investigators was still on, the pleas should not be allowed. The activists have been booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (Uapa).

After hearing arguments, the bench while refusing any reliefs to Teltumbde and Ferreira restrained the police from arresting Navlakha and posted the hearing of Navlakha’s plea as well as that of Ferreira and Teltumbde to Thursday, November 1.

Pune Police take custody of activists with alleged maoist links

Hours after a Pune Court rejected the bail pleas of civil rights activists Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Sudha Bharadwaj who were under house arrest, the Pune police took their custody and initiated steps to produce them before a city court by Saturday, officials monitoring the investigations said.

A senior police official said Ferreira and Gonsalves were taken into custody from Thane and Mumbai respectively. Sudha Bharadwaj who was under house arrest in Chhatisgarh was taken into custody by another team.

Earlier in the day, additional sessions judge KD Vadane rejected the bail pleas of Bharadwaj, Ferreira and Gonsalves, three of the five activists who were arrested by Pune police for their alleged maoist links and also refused to grant them any relief by staying their arrest to enable them to approach the High Court.

“These activists were already arrested by the police although the Supreme Court had offered them relief saying that they be kept under house arrest for four weeks. Now that the Pune court has given its ruling, we will go ahead and produce them before the court to seek their police custody,” said Joint Commissioner of Police Shivaji Bodkhe.

In the case of the other two activists, Gautam Navlakha’s arrest was quashed by Delhi High court previously while poet Varavara Rao had approached the Hyderabad High Court for bail.

Soon after the five activists were arrested by Pune police on August 28, the Supreme Court had intervened and directed that they be kept under house arrest at their residences and granted four weeks for the Pune court to decide on the bail plea by activists.

Bodkhe said today’s court order has vindicated the police action. “The material presented by Police in the court has been taken into account. With this order, relief granted by Supreme Court to the activists is over,” said Bodkhe.

In his order, Judge Vadane said, “At this stage, from material collected by investigating agency, prima facie, it reveals involvement of present applicants. Moreover, the investigation is at very crucial stage, therefore, in my view, the present applicants/accused are not entitled to be released on bail. Hence the applications being devoid of merit, liable to be rejected”

First Published: Oct 27, 2018 14:34 IST