Bhima Koregaon: Vernon Gonsalves involved in recruiting cadre for banned Naxal Group, Pune Police to Bombay HC

Bhima Koregaon: Vernon Gonsalves involved in recruiting cadre for banned Naxal Group, Pune Police to Bombay HC

Omkar Gokhale

The Pune Police, on Tuesday, claimed before the Bombay High Court that Vernon Gonsalves, accused in Bhima Koregaon case was involved in recruiting cadre for banned Naxal group Communist Party of India (Maoist) and the prosecution has sufficient material to incriminate him.

A Single Judge Bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal has been hearing bail applications of accused Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj, and Arun Ferreira on a regular basis since last month. Lawyers of bail applicants had concluded their arguments on September 24.

On Tuesday, Additional Public Prosecutor (APP) Aruna Pai commenced her arguments opposing the bail application of the accused activist Vernon Gonsalves. She began her submissions by stating that the investigation is still in progress and accused persons cannot be granted bail.

APP Pai submitted that in 2009, the Central Government had declared CPI (M) a banned organization. Relying on letters recovered from co-accused Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling, Pune Police claimed that Gonsalves was not only involved in routine activities of the banned organization but was also involved in recruitment, weapon deals, training cadre and promoting ideologies.

In view of this, Pai submitted that Vernon Gonsalves and co-accused Arun Ferreira were involved in activities of Radical Study Circle. According to APP Pai, one of the letters recovered showed that Ferreira and Gonsalves were involved in recruiting cadre for banned CPI (Maoist) through Radical Study Circle and two of its new recruits Mahesh and Nandu were inspired by Gonsalves.

In support of this, she argued that material seized during house search of Gonsalves, including posters and poems of Radical Study Circle corroborated prosecution’s claims. It establishes that Gonsalves and Ferreira were members of the group and were engaged in recruiting cadre, Pai claimed.

Moreover, Pai argued that books seized from Gonsalves’s house relate to activities of the CPI (Maoist). Pune Police alleged that in one of the books recovered, one Sridhar Srinivasan, former Central Committee member of banned Naxal Group has been praised. Pai submitted that Srinivasan was co-accused of Gonsalves in an earlier case and he died in 2015.

In this regard, APP Pai also said,

Though these books are not banned by the government, when considered along with material recovered, corroborate his ‘prima facie’ affiliation with the banned organization under section 43D (5) of UAPA Act and his bail be rejected.”

Pune Police also referred to a letter seized from Gonsalves’s house and alleged that he was involved in furthering Bolshevik training to the cadre. Pai submitted that Bolshevism is an ideology followed by the CPI (Maoist) and therefore corroborates charges of his affiliation with it as per the affidavit filed by the prosecution.

The prosecution further claimed that Gonsalves is connected with the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) and Committee for the  Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) and alleged these to be frontal organizations of CPI (Maoist). Pai further submitted that there have been 18 cases registered against Gonsalves under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Arms Act, and Explosive Act and he was convicted in one of the cases.

Moreover, APP Pai referred to a letter dated January 2, 2018, recovered from co-accused Rona Wilson’s laptop and claimed that Gonsalves was preparing for agitation in Bhima Koregaon conspiracy two months before the incident. The Pune Police, relying on Call Details Record (CDR) claimed that Gonsalves was in touch with other accused persons and it established a connection within them.

When Justice Kotwal inquired about authorship and admissibility of the letters,

APP Pai argued,

What is stated in letters, nonetheless it is recovered from accused persons, names them and shows their connection with a banned organisation. This is sufficient to deny them bail.”

On August 27, Senior Counsel Mihir Desai had argued 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 had 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 the laptop of an accused, which allegedly had mentioned the name of Gonsalves.

Moreover, Desai had submitted that none of the books seized are banned under Section 95 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), and are not sufficient to incriminate the accused.

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

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.

Pune Police will continue its reply on bail applications in a day-long hearing on Thursday.

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