Bhima Koregaon Violence: 1 year in jail yet no evidence, HC told

Mumbai: Activist Sudha Bharadwaj, accused in the Koregaon Bhima-Elgar Parishad case, urged the Bombay High Court on Friday to take note of the fact that in the one year that she had spent in custody, the Pune police had failed to produce any evidence or witnesses to directly linked her to the case.

Bharadwaj’s counsel advocate Yug Chaudhry, told a bench presided over by Justice Sarang Kotwal that the Pune police had merely relied upon six documents, most of which were typed letters, and some of which named her, to pin her to the alleged crime. However, since none of these letters had been written by her, or were addressed to her, or even found on her, she could not be denied bail on their basis, Chaudhry argued.

He further told the court even if one were to believe the Pune police’s charges against her, the court must note that it wasn’t the police’s case that Bharadwaj was “a flight risk, or that she could tamper with evidence or influence witnesses” if let out on bail.

“Besides, what evidence or witnesses could I influence? All evidence in the case is in the form of hard drives, and computers, and typed documents already seized by the police. And there are no witnesses in the case,” Chaudhry said. Therefore, Bharadwaj must not be denied bail by HC, he argued.

Chaudhry also read out portions of the six documents produced on record by the Pune police. Even as per the police, these were typed letters alleged to have been written by and addressed to Bhardawaj’s co-accused in the case, he told the court. Some of these letters and a copy of a minute of meetings held by “Maoist members” in Nagpur on January 2 last year named Bharadwaj. Such mentions however, were in reference to her work with the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers, and the Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee, neither of which were banned organisations, Chaudhry argued.

Besides, he said, the Pune police had accused Bharadwaj of having constituted an “anti-fascist front” along with her co-accused. The police’s affidavit opposing her bail argues that through such front, Bharadwaj and others planned to “topple the democratically government, assassinate political figures, and threaten the unity, integrity, and sovereignty of India,” among other charges.

However, none of the six documents mentioned above even suggested such conspiracies, Chaudhry said. “Besides, last I heard, Fascism is a very bad thing. To be anti-fascist, I should hope, should be a duty for all of us,” he said. Bharadwaj was arrested by the Pune police and booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in Seplast year, in connection with an event to commemorate the Battle of Bhima Koregaon on December 31, 2017.

Won’t depose before panel, says Gadling

Meanwhile in Pune, Surendra Gadling, an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, on Friday, told the commission probing the Koregaon Bhima violence that he did not want to depose as it would prejudice his case before the trial court.

Earlier Gadling, arrested by Pune Police under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, had said he wanted to give a statement before the commission headed by Justice (retired) Jai Narayan Patel. He wanted to bring to light certain facts, he had said. He was produced before the commission with heavy security on Friday. However, his lawyer submitted an application saying he was withdrawing his willingness to be examined by the panel due to certain circumstances.

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