Bhima Koregaon: Bombay HC begins daily hearing in bail pleas by activists Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj

Bhima Koregaon: Bombay HC begins daily hearing in bail pleas by activists Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj

Omkar Gokhale

The Bombay High Court, on Tuesday, began hearing the bail applications filed by Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Sudha Bharadwaj. The three activists were arrested last year for their alleged involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon violence.

Justice Sarang Kotwal commenced hearing the matter after querying whether the bail applications filed by the three accused were on similar grounds.

In response, senior advocate Mihir Desai and advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhary, appearing for Gonsalves and Bharadwaj respectively, told the Court that they have filed bail applications on different grounds, although the reasons cited for arrest were similar. The three accused had approached the High Court after the sessions court rejected their bail application.

On Tuesday, the hearing began with Desai making arguments for Gonsalves. It was his case that there was no direct evidence to incriminate Gonsalves in the material produced by the state, and that he, therefore, deserves to be released on bail.

In this regard, Desai submitted that his  client’s name was not mentioned in the First Information Report (FIR) filed by Pune Police. He argued that the prosecution had merely relied on two undated and unsigned letters recovered from laptop of an accused, which allegedly had mentioned the name of Gonsalves.

The sum total of evidence against Gonsalves is based on his name mentioned in material found from someone’s computer, that is all,” Desai argued.

Desai also submitted that the prosecution could not produce any evidence in the trial court to suggest that his client had written or received any email regarding the Elgar Parishad. Moreover, he argued that statement recorded under Section 164 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) does not refer to his client. He submitted that the prosecution only relied on the deposition of protected witness to implicate Gonsalves.

The Court will continue hearing the bail applications filed by three accused on Wednesday. The hearing will be conducted on a daily basis.

Additional Public Prosecutor Aruna Pai on Tuesday told the Court that she will make her reply after the conclusion of arguments for the accused.

The three activists were implicated after an Elgar Parishad meeting held on December 31, 2017, that allegedly provoked violence at the Koregaon-Bhima village in Pune the next day.

The Bombay High Court on August 8 allowed civil rights activist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj to visit her home to attend 13th day rituals and other final rights of her late father professor Ranganath Bharadwaj in Bangalore for two days.

Last month, the Pune Police made a controversial claim that civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha was in touch with banned organisation Hizbul Mujahideen and Kashmiri Seperatists. Navlakha had also been arrested over similar allegations of having played a role in provoking the Bhima Koregaon violence.

On July 26, the Bombay High Court reserved its order on a plea filed by Gautam Navlakha to quash the FIR filed against him by the Pune Police.

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