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Counsel for accused civil rights activist Arun Ferreira, who has been in custody for a year in the Bhima Koregaon case, asserted before the Bombay High Court that there is no incriminating evidence produced against his client by the Pune Police.
Advocate Sudeep Pasbola submitted that the Pune Police had booked Arun Ferreira for assisting co-accused Surendra Gadling, who was representing activist and Delhi University professor G N Saibaba, booked for having Maoist links.
“Merely because Ferreira had an acquaintance with Gadling is not a ground to implicate him,” argued Pasbola.
Moreover, Pasbola said that Ferreira was in Nagpur Central Jail for five years under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act after which he was acquitted of all the charges and released in 2012.
The counsel went on to submit before the Court that another ground for Ferreira’s arrest was his pronounced stand on human rights violations, reflected in his articles published last year. This will not suffice to incriminate Ferreira, Pasbola submitted.
Pasbola noted that the Pune Police had not named him in the first charge sheet filed last year. Police inserted his name in the supplementary charge sheet filed on February 21 this year as an afterthought, Pasbola claimed.
He further said that there are nine letters recovered from co-accused including Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling and two statements of witnesses on which the prosecution has relied upon. He said,
“Police failed to corroborate any of these letters and could not establish their context and correspondence. Therefore, there is no evidence to book Ferreira under the charges of criminal conspiracy.”
On the basis of the alleged letters recovered, the Pune Police in its report had claimed that Ferreira and others were involved in raising funds for banned Naxal groups.
On the issue of Ferreira being booked for being a member of IAPL, Pasbola argued,
“IAPL is not a banned organisation. It is an internationally recognised body which conducts conferences and has an open membership for public and lawyers. There is no corroboration of receipt of funds by Police. Moreover, no one from IAPL has been examined to establish these claims.”
Furthermore, it was claimed by the police that Ferreira was asked to attend a meeting of IAPL in Kerala in the year 2017.
According to an affidavit filed by the police, the meeting was to commemorate the golden jubilee of the Naxalbari movement in India. The police claimed that Ferreira’s call data records (CDR) prove that he was in Kerala during that period.
Pasbola refuted claims pertaining to the alleged meeting and said,
“Holding such a meeting is not incriminating or illegal per se. And it is to be noted that there is no evidence of such a meeting produced by the state and the members of the alleged meetings have not been examined.”
It was submitted that Ferreira is an author and an activist working for tribal people and since the documents relied upon by the police do not implicate him, he deserved to be released on bail.
While Ferreira’s arguments will continue on Monday, Additional Public Prosecutor Aruna Pai, appearing for the Pune Police, has sought a week’s time thereafter to prepare and argue on all three bail applications.
A Single Bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal is hearing bail applications of activists Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Vernon Gonsalves, accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, on a regular basis.
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.
While arguments of Gonsalves and Bharadwaj have been concluded, counsel of Ferreira began his arguments on Friday.