Bhima Koregaon: Counsel of Sudha Bharadwaj claims she was implicated for being an office bearer of IAPL
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Bhima Koregaon: Counsel of Sudha Bharadwaj claims she was implicated for being an office bearer of IAPL

Omkar Gokhale

The Bombay High Court was told on Wednesday that civil rights activist, Sudha Bharadwaj was implicated in the Bhima Koregaon case because she was an office-bearer of the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL),  Submissions to this effect were made by Yug Mohit Chaudhary, who appears for Bharadwaj. He argued,

IAPL is not a banned organisation. However, it is to be noted that retired Bombay High Court judge H Suresh is still the President of the organisation and several retired judges and senior lawyers attended its functions.”

Co-accused, Surendra Gadling was a secretary in the same group. Bharadwaj was the Vice-President. Chaudhary informed the Court yesterday that the Pune Police had relied on a letter allegedly found on Gadling’s computer to implicate Bharadwaj. It was the prosecution’s case that Gadling was using the IAPL group as a platform to carry out Maoist activities. Chaudhary went on to argue,

Just because Gadling allegedly misused his position in the organisation, it does not mean that Bharadwaj was involved in his activities and cannot be implicated.”

Chaudhary contended that the an unsigned letter found on Gadling’s computer, which mentions Bharadhwaj’s name, cannot be used to implicate her.

When prosecution relies on a document, the authorship and truth of the contents of that document have to be independently proved,” Chaudhary said, while closing his arguments for the day.

Last week, Chaudhary had submitted that the documents submitted by the Pune Police against Sudha Bharadwaj are unverified, unsigned and inadmissible under the law. These documents include those allegedly recovered from  co-accused Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling. Chaudhary further submitted that there is no statement recorded under Section 161 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to support the claims of the Police. Section 161 provides for examination of witnesses by the police.

A Single Bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal has been hearing the bail applications filed by activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira on a regular basis, who are accused in the Bhima Koregaon case. 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.

Recently, the Bhima Koregaon hearings assumed the spotlight after the judge posed queries concerning the submissions that the accused possessed a copy of the book ‘War and Peace‘, which was listed among the materials seized by the police after making the arrest. The judge later clarified in open court that he had not expressed any opinion on the same. On Wednesday, he also commented,

If I ask some questions to lawyers in an open court, it doesn’t mean I have formed my opinion. My views will be reflected only in my order.

Earlier, he had expressed anguish at the media’s misinterpretation of his questions on the books seized by the Pune Police. Commenting on media reports which said that the Court raised questions to the accused for keeping a copy of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the judge had clarified that his comment was not meant for Tolstoy’s book. Advocate Chaudhary had then clarified that the remarks were made with respect to a book mentioned in the Panchanama called War & Peace in Junglemahal: People, State and Maoists by Biswajit Roy.

Chaudhary will continue his arguments on behalf of Bharadwaj on Friday, followed by arguments for Arun Ferreira. Additional Public Prosecutor Aruna Pai will reply thereafter.

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