Mumbai: A Pune sessions court on Friday rejected bail applications filed by activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, who were arrested by the Pune city police on August 28 in connection with the Elgaar Parishad case that allegedly triggered violence at Bhima Koregaon on January 1 and for their alleged links with the banned CPI (Maoist) outfit.
The trio was arrested along with P. Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha, but all five were then put under house arrest as per the order issued by the Supreme Court.
Since Friday was the last day for Ferriera and Gonsalves’ house arrest, their lawyers had moved the Bombay high court seeking a week’s extension. The HC, however, rejected the application seeking further extension. Pune police arrested Ferriera and Gonsalves at aroun 6:30 pm.
According to sources, the police were fully prepared to arrest the two activists and as soon as the HC order was passed, they reached their residences (Gonsalves in Andheri and Ferreira in Thane) and took them into custody.
The original FIR filed on January 8 by Tushar Damgude, a Pune resident had initially named Republic Panthers activist Harshali Potdar and Sudhir Dhawale along with cultural activists of Kabir Kala Manch Sagar Gorkhe, and Ramesh Gaichor, Jyoti Jagtap, Deepak Dhengle. However, the police have so far only arrested Dhawale from the list of accused. Dhawale and four others were arrested on June 6.
The police in their initial investigations claimed that the suspects were involved in the violence that broke out at Bhima Koregaon on January 1. But eventually, the investigation was given a new angle and the arrested persons were branded as “urban Naxals”. All arrested persons have been charged under several sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Accused persons Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Ferreira, Gonsalves, and Bharadwaj had moved their bail applications before special judge K.D. Vadane in Pune. Gadling, a senior advocate from Nagpur, had argued his case in person and had questioned the state’s motive behind the arrest. He had challenged the police’s claims and had called the alleged letter recovered from co-accused Rona Wilson’s laptop as “bogus”.
Opposing the bail applications, district government pleader Ujjwala Pawar had argued that investigation is at a crucial stage. Gadling and other lawyers representing other accused had argued that the evidence was unverified and baseless.
On October 25, meanwhile, the Bombay high court had set aside an order of Pune court granting 90 days extension to the police to file a charge sheet against five persons arrested in June in the case. Justice Mridula Bhatkar ruled that the Pune court order giving the extension and thus subsequently extending the custody was illegal. The accused had moved the high court challenging the lower court’s extension for filing the chargesheet.
Justice Bhatkar presiding the court put a stay on her own ruling and granted the prosecution time till November 1. If not for the stay, the five persons could have been granted a “default bail” owing to the police’s failure to file the chargesheet. The state government immediately moved the Supreme Court against justice Bhatkar’s order.