The National Investigating agency (NIA) on Monday filed draft charges against 15 accused persons in the Bhima Koregaon case of 2018.
Framing of charges under Section 226 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is the stage where the prosecution describes the charges against the accused along with the evidence they have to prove the guilt of the accused.
Procedurally, the Court will now proceed to hear the prosecution substantiating the draft charges and the accused opposing them after which the Special Judge will frame the charges.
After this, the accused will be asked whether they plead guilty or not.
The trial will commence against the accused who have pleaded not guilty.
When Advocate Susan Abraham and R Satyanarayanan appearing for the accused sought a copy of the draft charges, Special Judge DE Kothalikar directed them to apply for certified copies of the same.
The First Information Report (FIR) of January 8, 2018 registered after the alleged riots which took place after the ’Elgar Parishad’ event forms the basis of the entire Bhima Koregaon case which led to arrest of 16 accused, and the 3 chargesheets.
The trial is yet to begin in the case.
Special Public Prosecutor Prakash Shetty appearing for NIA, stated that the charges mentioned in the chargesheets filed in the case were mentioned in the draft charges.The chargesheets list out approximately 17 charges against each accused.
The case was being investigated by the Anti-Terrorist Squad, Pune who filed the first chargesheet of over 5000 pages in November 2018 against 5 arrested accused.
The arrested are activist Rona Wilson, Nagpur lawyer Surendra Gadling, Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen, former ‘Prime Minister Rural Development’ fellow Mahesh Raut and Sudhir Dhawale of Republican Panthers.
A supplementary chargesheet was filed in February 2019 against 4 accused - lawyer activist Sudha Bharadwaj, Telugu poet P Varavara Rao, activists Arun Ferriera and Vernon Gonsalves.
According to the chargesheet filed by Pune Police the following offences had been alleged against the accused:
Sections 121, 121A (Waging war against State), 124A (Sedition), 153A (arms in procession), 505(1)(B) (Statements promoting mischief), 117 (Abetting commission of offence), 120B (Criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code
Sections 13, 16, 17, 18, 18A, 18B, 20 (Punishment for terrorist activities), 38, 39 and 40 (punishment for being part of terrorist organisation) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
After NIA took over the investigation, they filed a voluminous chargesheet of over 10,000 pages in October 2020 against 8 persons - Father Stan Swamy, Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Prof Hany Babu, Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor, Jyoti Jagtap and absconding accused Milind Teltumbde.
They charged the accused with the following offences:
Sections 120B, 115, 121, 121A, 153A, 505(1)(B) and 34 of IPC.
Sections 13, 16, 17, 18, 18B, 20, 38 and 39 of the UAPA.
The chargesheets made specific allegations that the accused were raising funds for the terrorist activities, they were recruiting different persons from different States to give training of the terrorist activities, they were hatching conspiracy for committing terrorist acts and they are the members of banned terrorist organisation.
It is alleged that the accused hatched conspiracy to form a parallel government in the country by overthrowing the government established by democratic setup.
It also pointed out the role of various frontal organizations of CPI (Maoist) which emerged during investigation and how the members of CPI (Maoist) were using these organizations to further their agenda.
At this point, several defence lawyers pointed out that since there were pending applications of several accused in the case, those could be disposed of before the charges were framed by the Court.
Advocate Barun Kumar appearing for the accused Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor pointed out that the pending applications also included regular bail applications.
Advocate Chandni Chawla, appearing for accused Sudha Bharadwaj submitted that an appeal by the accused is pending in the High Court challenging an order of the Special Court rejecting the application seeking cline copies.
Refusing to accept this argument for deferring framing charges, the Special Judge pointed out that since there is no stay on the proceeding, he is not precluded from proceeding with the hearing.
“Bring stay, the matter is over. The fact that you have approached high court or supreme court does not matter until there is a stay," the Special Judge said.
The Court posted the hearing on the applications by August 23, 2021 after directing NIA to file its response to the applications.