Bombay High Court
Bombay High Court

Mumbai: In a major setback to civil liberties activists, the Bombay High Court has rejected their applications seeking bail. The High Court said there was sufficient material on record to make out a prima facie case against the trio for being ‘active members’ of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) organisation.

At least seven activists from across India are behind bars for allegedly instigating violence at Bhima-Koregaon on January 1, 2018. They have been also booked for hatching a conspiracy to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal said the activists – Sudha Bharadwaj, 57, Arun Ferreira, 45, and Vernon Gonsalves, 61, were active members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and were hatching a conspiracy to defeat ‘enemy forces’ i.e. the state machinery, with the help of weapons.

The judge noted that the trio was given the responsibility to recruit cadres to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) from urban areas, and more particularly, students.

“The literature of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) mentions its objectives and possible methods to achieve these objectives. Two of the important methods are recruiting cadres from urban masses through student unions and providing military training to such cadres,” Justice Kotwal said.

“Important party members, such as the present applicants, were entrusted with the responsibility of recruiting cadres. One of the objectives of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) was defeating ‘enemy forces’ with the use of weapons and by forming the people’s army. The state's armed forces were treated as enemy forces,” Justice Kotwal noted in his judgment.

The bench further referred to the chargesheet filed by Pune Police and said, “There is material in the chargesheet to show that prima facie, the applicants actively worked towards fulfilling the responsibility to recruit cadres.”

The court further said that the probe agency has brought on record, enough material to show prima facie that the applicants were senior active members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and they were on the important committees.

As far as Sudha Bharadwaj was concerned, the bench noted that she was a party to the suggestion that members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) be given packages similar to the packages given to Kashmiri separatists by different terrorist organizations.

“This suggestion is quite serious and establishes a prima facie case in respect of the accusations made against Bharadwaj. The state and armed forces are described as enemies and the fact that she had to send students from reputed institutions into the interiors as per the directions of the party, for which she needed finances.

Thus, one thing is definitely clear that the party had entrusted the applicant with the work of guiding the new recruits,” Justice Kotwal noted.

Admissibility of incriminating letters

The Bombay High Court, in its three separate judgments rejecting the bail applications of civil liberties activists, has referred to the much-hyped ‘incriminating’ letters. These are the letters on which the Pune Police has extensively relied to nail the activists.

The HC has refused to clarify if these letters can be admitted as evidence. Instead, the bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal has passed the onus of deciding whether these letters are admissible or not on the trial court.

Notably, the Pune police have been highlighting these letters right from day one to establish that all the activists were hatching a conspiracy to fight with the state machinery.

However, there is no clarity on whether these letters can be admitted as evidence or not. Maintaining the confusion over this, the HC in its order has said, “The courts are expected to consider the totality of the material gathered by the investigating agency.

The issue of admissibility of the document or evidence would be a matter for trial. The court must look at the contents of the document and take such a document into account as it is

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