Bhima Koregaon: Being inspired by Marxist or Leftist ideology not enough to incriminate me, Arun Ferreira tells Bombay HC

Bhima Koregaon: Being inspired by Marxist or Leftist ideology not enough to incriminate me, Arun Ferreira tells Bombay HC

Omkar Gokhale

On the second day of his arguments in the Bhima Koregaon case, counsel for accused civil rights activist and lawyer Arun Ferreira submitted before the Bombay High Court that though his client may have been inspired by Marxist or Leftist ideology, it was not a ground to incriminate him in connection with the alleged conspiracies of banned Naxal group, Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Advocate Sudeep Pasbola, appearing for Ferreira, argued on Monday that the material on Marxist or Leftist ideology, including books and notes allegedly recovered by the Pune Police from Ferreira’s house, was not sufficient proof to deny him bail.

Pasbola was arguing before a Single Bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal, who is hearing bail applications of activists Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Vernon Gonsalves, accused in the Bhima Koregaon case.

Advocate Pasbola submitted that the Pune Police’s affidavit had mentioned documents allegedly recovered from the computers of co-accused Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling, as well as material seized from his client’s house, which allegedly included books and handwritten notes on the Naxalbari movement, Mao Zedong, and others.

Pasbola argued in this regard,

All that the books and notes would show is that the person being inspired by Marxism and has leaning towards leftist ideology while having academic interest in that regard. However, this is not sufficient to incriminate him for a criminal conspiracy as alleged by Pune Police. Moreover, these books are not banned by the Government.”

Ferreira’s counsel further stated that some of the material, including hand written notes recovered from his house, belonged to a colleague who died in a road accident.

The three activists were implicated after an Elgar Parishad meeting held on December 31, 2017 allegedly provoked violence at the Koregaon-Bhima village in Pune the next day. The accused were arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other penal provisions in August last year. A Special Judge in Pune rejected their bail applications in October last year, prompting the trio to move the Bombay High Court.

In light of this, Pasbola went on to argue that even if the prosecution’s claim that the Elgar Parishad was a conspiracy was to considered, there was no evidence that could link the accused to the alleged larger conspiracy of the CPI (Maoist) creating a ‘war-like’ situation against the government using violent means.

He further referred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) v. Zahoor Ahmed Shah Watali case decided by the Supreme Court and sought bail for his client in view of the said judgement.

The judgment states that an allegation against an accused can prevail only until contradicted and overcome or disapproved by other evidence. In the present case, the petitioners had argued that the documents produced by the Pune Police were unsigned, unverified and could not be admissible.

Authored by Justice AM Khanwilkar of the Apex Court, the judgment in Zahoor Ahmed also holds that the admissibility of the documents submitted by the prosecution would have to be considered at the time of trial.

It further provided that while deciding a bail application under the UAPA, the degree of satisfaction for the Court to opine that an accusation is prima facie true, is lighter than the degree of satisfaction to be recorded for considering a discharge application or framing of charges.

Justice Kotwal took a copy of judgment on record and noted that it will be applicable in this matter.

Earlier, on September 20, advocate Pasbola had asserted that there is no incriminating evidence produced against his client by the Pune Police.

While arguments by Ferreira concluded on Monday, Additional Public Prosecutor Aruna Pai, appearing for Pune Police, will start arguments on bail applications of all three accused on October 1.

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