Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has granted bail to Vaibhav Raut (44), a member of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti and Sanatan Sanstha. Raut was arrested in the 2018 Nalasopara arms haul and terror plot case for allegedly making crude bombs that were to be used to target the Sunburn festival in Pune.
While granting bail, the high court observed that the prosecution case against Raut that he had prepared bombs was not corroborated. It also took note of the fact that the godown from where the bombs were recovered was not owned by Raut.
2018 UAPA case
Raut was arrested in 2018 by the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) under various provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Explosives Substances Act after crude bombs were allegedly recovered from a godown in Nalasopara, on Mumbai's outskirts.
The HC was hearing a bail plea filed by Raut after the same was rejected by the special court in December 2022.
A division bench of Justices Revati Mohite-Dere and Gauri Godse on September 20 granted bail to Vaibhav Raut noting that he had been incarcerated for over five years now and the trial in the case is not likely to conclude soon. The order was made available on Friday.
The judges, while relying on an earlier order, in which bail was granted to a co-accused, noted that Sanatan Sanstha was not an organisation that was banned or declared as a terrorist outfit by the Centre.
3 other accused in case were granted bail earlier
Raut’s advocate Sana Raees Khan argued that three other accused in the case have been granted bail. Even the godown from where the crude bombs were recovered was owned by someone else and not Raut. Mere Possession in the absence of proof of exclusive ownership is not sufficient to attribute the recovery of Bomb to Raut, Khan added.
The prosecution had alleged that Raut and other accused conducted recce at the Sunburn event and since they were captured in the CCTV footage doing recce they aborted the plan. However, no such footage is brought on record till date to corroborate this allegation, Khan submitted.
Prosecutor KV Saste had argued that Raut and the other accused were members of the right-wing group Sanatan Sanstha, the objective of which was to form a 'Hindu Rashtra', by secretly forming a terrorist gang in Maharashtra and adjoining states.
It alleged that the accused persons collected and prepared crude bombs that were to be used at the Sunburn festival in Pune and stored the explosives in Raut's residence and godown.
In a detailed order, the HC noted that Raut did not own either the residence or the godown from where the bombs were allegedly recovered.
“It is pertinent to note that the minimum sentence that can be awarded under the provisions of the UAPA is 5 years and the same can extend up to life imprisonment. The appellant (Raut) is in custody and has been incarcerated for the last 5 years,” the HC said.
It added that the trial in the case is also not likely to conclude in the near future.