Sudha Bhardwaj and NIA logo, Bombay HC
Sudha Bhardwaj and NIA logo, Bombay HC
Litigation News

Bhima Koregaon: NIA opposes Sudha Bharadwaj’s interim bail plea before Bombay HC, says gravity of alleged offence makes her ineligible

The NIA has opposed the interim bail plea, saying that Bharadwaj is “taking undue benefit of the pandemic” in seeking interim bail on medical grounds.

Shruti Mahajan

The National Investigating Agency (NIA) has opposed the plea for interim bail filed by lawyer and trade unionist Sudha Bharadwaj in relation to the Bhima Koregaon case.

A Special Court in Mumbai had earlier rejected Bharadwaj’s plea for interim bail, following which the Bombay High Court was approached. Bharadwaj has sought interim bail on the grounds of the COVID-19 pandemic, given that she is currently lodged at the Byculla women’s prison in Mumbai.

The NIA has opposed this plea, saying that Bharadwaj is “taking undue benefit of the pandemic” in seeking interim bail on medical grounds. The reply states,

“The appellant accused Sudha Bhardwaj under the garb of current situation on the account global pandemic COVID-19, is trying to take an undue benefit of the aforesaid situation in seeking bail on the grounds mentioned in her application.”
NIA's reply before Bombay High Court

NIA has also refuted Bharadwaj's argument that he ought to be released owing to her medical condition. The agency has said that the activist, on being checked by medical practitioners, was found to be in stable condition and is also being provided appropriate medical assistance in the prison where she is lodged.

The agency, which took on the investigation in the case in January this year, has also said that the considering the “gravity of the offence” Bharadwaj is being prosecuted for, she is not entitled to bail.

Bharadwaj is one of the many accused in the case who have been charged under various provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). NIA’s response to the bail plea says that evidence has emerged during the course of the investigation that ties Bharadwaj to banned Maoist organizations and that she is an active member of the frontal organization.

It is NIA’s claim that Bharadwaj was involved in “providing strategic inputs in furtherance of the objective of armed rebellion”. She was part of organizations such as the Indian Association of of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), which according to the NIA, is revealed to be a frontal organization of the CPI (Maoist) – a banned organization. NIA also cites other evidence that has been unearthed against Bhardwaj and other accused in the Bhima Koregaon case.

Based on the investigation, Bhardwaj is charged with provisions under the UAPA which provide for serious punishment exceeding seven years’ imprisonment and as such, Bhardwaj is not entitled to interim bail, the agency contends.

“Considering the nature of allegations against the appellant accused Sudha Bhardwaj and the evidence which has come on record so far against her, she is not entitled to seek any relief from this Hon’ble Court… no ground is made out for the grant of interim bail to the appellant accused as prayed.”

Bhardwaj is one of the several activists, academicians, and lawyers whose homes were raided by the Pune Police in 2018 in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. For close to two years now, Bhardwaj has remained incarcerated on charges under the UAPA. The investigation in the case stood transferred from the Pune Police to the NIA as of January this year.

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