Bhima Koregaon: Bombay HC reserves order on bail pleas of accused Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira

Omkar Gokhale

After hearing the arguments for over a month, the Bombay High Court on Monday reserved its orders on the bail applications of activists Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj, and Arun Ferreira, who have been accused in the Bhima-Koregaon case.

A Single Judge Bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal has been hearing bail applications of the three accused on a regular basis since August 27.

On Monday, Additional Public Prosecutor (APP) Aruna Pai concluded her arguments on behalf of the Pune police. She submitted that the Call Detail Records (CDRs) of all three accused show that they were in constant touch with the other accused persons, Surendra Gadling and Rona Wilson. It is sufficient to keep them incarcerated in jail, Pai argued.

Earlier, on October 1, Pai had claimed that accused Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira were involved in recruiting cadre for banned Naxal group Communist Party of India (Maoist). On October 3, it was further submitted that all three activists were members of organizations that were allegedly acting as frontal groups for the CPI (M).

These organizations include the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee (PPSC) and Anuradha Gandhi Memorial (AGM).

Arguments on behalf of the bail applicants had concluded on September 24. Appearing for Arun Ferreira, Advocate Sudeep Pasbola had submitted 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 the banned Naxal group CPI (M).

It was also submitted that there is no incriminating evidence against Ferreira produced by the prosecution. Pasbola had argued that the Police had booked Arun Ferreira for assisting co-accused Surendra Gadling, who had represented Delhi University professor, GN Saibaba. Saibaba had been convicted to life imprisonment for having Maoist links in 2017.

Appearing for Sudha Bharadwaj, Advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhry contended that she had been implicated merely because she was an office-bearer of the IAPL. Chaudhry argued that the Pune Police had failed to produce any material to establish her involvement in the Bhima Koregaon case, even though it has been over a year since Bharadwaj was jailed. He told the Court that the documents submitted by Pune Police against Bharadwaj were unverified, unsigned and inadmissible under the law.

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 three activists to move the Bombay High Court.

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