Mumbai: Bhima-Koregaon violence: State opposes Bharadwaj’s bail plea

The Maharashtra government has opposed the petition filed by human rights activist Sudha Bharadwaj in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case, seeking default bail stating that the special judge under the NIA Act comes into the picture only after the probe is transferred to the central agency.

The division bench of Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar was hearing a petition filed by Bharadwaj, contesting that sessions’ court judge K D Vadane had no jurisdiction to hear her case since he was not designated as the special NIA judge while granting extra time to the police. She had contended that once Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) is added, then the case has to be heard by the special court.

In 2018, judge Vadane had granted additional time to the Pune police to file a chargesheet in the Bhima-Koregaon case. Later, in 2019, the sessions’ judge had taken cognisance of the chargesheet.

Advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhkoni argued that in 2018 and 2019, there was no need to take up the matter in regards to the extension of time and taking cognisance of the chargesheet before the special NIA judge since the central agency was not probing the case.

Till the time the probe is transferred to the NIA, the special court does not come into the picture to try offences under UAPA, argued Kumbhkoni.

The stringent UAPA was invoked in the case on May 17, 2018. “On January 24, 2020, the Union government passed an order to transfer the investigation to the NIA. However, the state government passed an order to transfer the probe to the NIA on February 12, 2020. Our contention is that the NIA Act will apply from Jan 24, 2020, and from Feb 12, 2020, when the case was actually handed over,” argued Kumbhkoni.

Besides, the state government has also contended that the special NIA court, under Section 13 of the NIA Act, is empowered to conduct a trial in the offence and not undertake pre-trial proceedings.

Kumbhkoni argued, “A special court has no jurisdiction to try and decide any pre-trial proceedings. It is there to conduct the trial.”

According to Bharadwaj’s petition, the concerned judge was not appointed as a “special judge” to hear matters pertaining to matters of the UAPA. Bharadwaj’s counsel Yug Chaudhry argued that in cases of offences such as those under the UAPA, a sessions’ judge has the power to take cognizance only if there are specific instructions from the principal district judge.

The HC will hear the matter on July 23.

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