Bhima Koregaon case: Under the pretext of creating communal disharmony and inciting violence

bhimakore

Background note on facts and timeline of the Bhima Koregaon case amidst reports that one of the accused, Varavara Rao, 80, is  very sick in Taloja Jail, and yet he is not letting him out because of pressure from the National Investigation Agency, which is against all jurisprudence:

Bhima Koregaon, a small village with historical significance became the rallying point for Dalit rights activists in December, 2017 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon in 1818. The British Army comprised mostly of Dalits defeated the upper caste Peshwa army, led by Peshwa Bajirao II. Hundreds of people from the Dalit community gathered on 31st December, 2017 to commemorate the anniversary of the battle. The event was organised at Pune’s Shaniwarwada Fort, which was a seat of power of the Peshwas. The victory of the British forces over the Maratha Empire was an important one for Dalits as caste oppression under the Peshwas was severe. Thus, the organisation of the event on the eve of the 200th anniversary of the battle was an important symbol of Dalit assertion. However, violence erupted when there were clashes between some groups carrying saffron flags and the people gathered at the event, which led to the death of an individual as well as several people being injured. A probe was launched by the Maharashtra police which led to the arrests of several eminent lawyers, human rights activists and academicians under the pretext of creating communal disharmony and inciting violence. Following is a timeline looking into the progress made in the case.

8th January, 2018 – FIR bearing C.R. No. 4 of 2018 was lodged at Vishrambaug Police Station on the complaint of Tushar Ramesh Damgude. The FIR was filed for the offences punishable under sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc), 505(1)(b) (with intent to cause fear or alarm to the public in order to induce it to commit offences against public tranquillity), 117 (abetting commission of offence by the public or by more than ten persons) read with 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. The FIR mentions that one Tushar Ramesh Damgude came to know of a programme to be held at Shaniwar Wada organised by Elgar Parishad through a social networking site. The event was organised by Dalit activists and intellectuals and included speeches by Gujarat MLA Jignesh Melvani, Dalit activist Radhika Vemula, Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar and several others. Mr. Damgude attended the programme and stated that there were a few speakers, comperes, singers and other performers present on the stage. He has further stated that some of the performers enacted short plays, performed dances and sung songs. According to him, the performances were provocative in nature and had effect of creating communal disharmony. He mentioned that a few provocative speeches were delivered and a few objectionable books were also on sale at the venue.

24th January. 2018 – Investigation on basis of FIR was transferred to Assistant Commissioner of Police, Swargate, Pune. It named six individuals as accused namely, Sudhir Dhawale, Harshali Potdar, Sagar Gorakhe, Deepak Dhengale, Ramesh Gaychor and Jyoti Jagtap. Investigation into the matter was expanded as allegedly new evidence surfaced which alleged a ‘deep rooted conspiracy’ to create communal disharmony.

17th April, 2018 – The investigating agency conducted coordinated searches at the residences and work places of eight persons namely, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Harshali Potdar, Sagar Gorakhe, Deepak Dhengale, Ramesh Gaychor and Jyoti Jagtap. As per a police examination of the cloned copies of the hard discs of Surendra Gandling and Rona Wilson’s laptop, it was revealed that critical communications with Central Committee [C.C.] of CPI(Maoist) which is a banned organisation under UAPA, 1967.

06th June, 2018 – The residences of Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut were searched and they were immediately arrested and transferred to Shivaji Nagar Police Station in Pune where they were placed in police custody for a week on accusations of spreading controversial pamphlets and delivering hate speeches.

The investigating agency states that several documents/laptops/pen drives/ memory cards/ computers were recovered during the searches and seized. They were then sent to Forensic Science Laboratory for analysis. Police allege that the seized and recovered materials revealed that a few more individuals were part of the criminal conspiracy and that their roles were not just peripheral but vital to the case.

17th May, 2018 – Sections 13, 16, 17, 18, 18B, 20, 38, 39, 40 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) were invoked and added to the FIR. The sections relate to unlawful and terrorist acts, raising funds for a terrorist act or organisation, recruiting persons and being a member of any terrorist gang or organisation.

22nd August, 2018 – Vara Vara Rao, Sudha Bhardwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Gautam Navlakha were further named as accused to the subject FIR.

28th August, 2018 – Police conducted searches at the houses of Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bhardwaj and Gautam Navlakha. They were arrested and initially put under house arrest.

28th August, 2018 – Criminal Writ Petition No. 2559 of 2018 filed on behalf of Mr. Gautam Navlakha in Delhi High Court. The Court directed that Mr. Navlakha not be moved from Delhi and at 4pm the same day, stayed the transit remand order to Pune and directed instead the house arrest of Mr. Navlakha.

29th August, 2019 – Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 260/2018 was filed before the Supreme Court, Romila Thapar and others Vs. Union of India and others. The petition prayed for an independent and comprehensive inquiry into the arrests, a court ordered SIT, an order for their immediate release from custody and for the stay of any other arrest until the matter was fully investigated and decided by the Court.

28th September, 2018 – The Supreme Court by majority decision 2:1 declined a court ordered SIT investigation and mentioned that the “case was not of arrest because of mere dissenting views expressed or difference in political ideology, but concerning the accused’s link with members of banned organisations and its activities”. It however, extended the house arrest for a period of 4 weeks to Mr. Navlakha and granted a period of four weeks to Sudha Bhardwaj, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves to seek relief (bail) in a lower court. They remained under house arrest till the lower court pronounced its judgment.

5th October, 2018 – Accordingly, the applicants (Sudha Bhardwaj, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira) proferred applications for bail before the learned Special Judge, Pune under UAPA vide Criminal Bail Application Nos 3994/2018, 3999/2018 and 4030/2018.

26th October, 2018 – The learned Special Judge K.D. Vadane of the Pune (UAPA) Sessions Court rejected the applications for bail in a common order stating that “the investigating machinery, prima facie, shows that the present accused are involved in the alleged commission of offence punishable under UAPA as several documents produced as evidence by the respondent – State, shows. The material seized by the investigating agency, cumulatively indicates that the accused have links with the banned organisation and its activities”. The court also rejected their application for extension of house arrest and Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira were taken into custody on the same day.

27th October, 2018 – Sudha Bhardwaj was taken into custody and all three (Sudha Bhardwaj, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves) were produced before the Pune Sessions Court and remanded till 6th November, 2018.

14th November, 2018 – Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira filed applications for bail (Crim Bail Appln Nos. 3006/2018, 3007/2018) before the Bombay High Court challenging the order of the Sessions Court, Pune. Sudha Bhardwaj filed for bail (Appln No. 428/2019) before the same court on 4th February, 2019.

15th November, 2018 – The investigating agency files the chargesheet, which states that accused Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling were active members of CPI (Maoist). They had conspired to mobilise masses and to spread hatred against the State through provocative speeches, songs, plays etc. They incited a feeling of communal disharmony resulting in widespread violence from 1st January, 2018. The chargesheet also stated that their activities were not restricted to creating disharmony between two communities but that they were actually engaging in activities which were against the Nation.

February, 2019 – The supplementary chargesheet filed in against Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Sudha Bhardwaj mentioned that they had recruited members for CPI(M) and that organisations like Indian Association of Peoples Lawyers (IAPL), Anuradha Ghandy Memorial Committee (AGMC), Kabir Kala Manch, Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee (PPSC) were front organisations of CPI(M).

Bombay High Court

  • 7th February, 2019 – Mr. Gonsalves and Mr. Ferreira’s applications for bail were tagged together before learned Justice Nitin W. Sambre. The matters then proceeded before Hon’ble Justice P.N. Deshmukh and finally before Hon’ble Justice S.V. Kotwal after more than ten adjournments between the months January and August, 2019.

  • 28th June, 2019 – All three matters for bail of Sudha Bhardwaj (BA/428/2019), Arun Ferreira (BA/3006/2018) and Vernon Gonsalves (BA/3007/2018) were tagged together as connected matters and put before Hon’ble Justice S.V. Kotwal.

  • 27th August, 2019 – Justice SV Kotwal begins daily hearings of the bail applications and the applicants submit that evidence consists of letters and documents recovered from other accused and none of the documents relied on by the prosecution – State is inadmissible in law. The counsels for the applicants submit that the documents were not in original and therefore could not be produced as primary evidence.

  • Submissions on Behalf of the State – That the applicants are active members of the banned organisation CPI(M) and were instrumental in arranging meetings, recruiting cadres, procuring weapons and raising funds. As per notification dated 22/06/2009, the Central Government had added CPI(M) and all its front organisations as terrorist organisations under Section 35, UAPA.

  • 15th October, 2019 – The learned judge in passing the order rejecting the bail applications stating that the issue of admissibility and credibility of the material and evidence presented by the State would be a matter of trial and that the Court was satisfied that there was enough material in the chargesheet to show that prima facie the accused had actively worked towards fulfilling responsibilities in a banned organisation. The applicants’ application for bail has been in court since November, 2018 and has seen the transfer of two judges, more than ten adjournments and around 30 hearings.

Gautam Navlakha’s Application

  • 28th September, 2018 – Supreme Court in 2:1 majority decision in the Writ Petition No. 260/2018 filed by Romila Thapar et al, declined a court ordered SIT investigation but extended the interim relief of house arrest for 4 weeks (ceasing on 26th October, 2018).

  • 5th October, 2018 – Criminal Writ Petition No. 4425/2018 was filed before the Bombay High Court by Gautam Navlakha for quashing the proceedings of the FIR (C.R. No 4 of 2018) filed against him on 8th January, 2018.

  • 26th October, 2018 – The learned Special Judge, Pune rejected the applications for bail in a common order in the bail applications of Sudha Bhardwaj, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira. They were taken into judicial custody to Yerawada Central Prison, Pune. However, the interim protection for Gautam Navlakha continued.

  • 1st November, 2018 – The petition (4425/2018) was placed for admission before the Bombay High Court. Since the order passed by Delhi High Court in Criminal Writ Petition No. 2559 of 2018 was challenged by the State in the apex court by filing SLP No. 8616/2018 and the apex court had issued notices therein, hearing of Writ Petition No. 4425/2018 was deferred and ad-interim relief continued.

  • 26th July, 2019 – Hearing commences in Writ Petition No. 4425/2018 before the Bombay High Court. Petitioner submitted that he had nothing to do with either Elgar Parishad or the event on 31/12/2017 and that the documents furnished by the State are inadmissible. The State opposed the petition and submitted that the petitioner was a working and active member of the CPI(M) and was involved in selecting and encouraging cadres to go underground. The petitioner also provided inputs in furthering the objectives of armed rebellion.

  • 13th September, 2019 – The bench of Hon’ble Justice Ranjit More and Hon’ble Justice Bharati Dangre observed that the registration and investigation in this case is not without basis and there was a prima facie case against the petitioner. Hence, the petition of quashing the FIR against Gautam Navlakha was denied. However, the ad-interim protection was granted for a period of three weeks and would cease on 4th October, 2019.

  • 1st October, 2019 – Gautam Navlakha preferred an appeal against the Bombay High Court judgment before the Hon’ble Supreme Court. However, hearing in his case was delayed due to recusals from five Supreme Court Judges. Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi recused from hearing the case on 1st October followed by Justices NV Ramana, Subhash Reddy, Gavai and Ravindra Bhat on 3rd October, 2019.

  • 4th October, 2019 – The matter was finally listed before the Supreme Court. Mr. Navlakha’s ad-interim protection was further extended till 15th October, 2019 and the Court provided Mr. Navlakha with the opportunity to approach the Pune Sessions Court for anticipatory bail.

  • 15th October, 2019 – The Hon’ble Supreme Court Bench consisting of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Deepak Gupta granted Mr. Navlakha interim protection from arrest for four weeks and asked him to apply for anticipatory bail before the concerned lower court. Counsels for Mr. Navlakha argued before the court that no offence is made out against Mr. Navlakha and that he is willing to answer any questions put forth by the investigating agency.

  • 5th November, 2019 – Criminal Application No. 5240/2019 for Anticipatory Bail was filed before the learned Additional Sessions Judge, Justice S.R. Navander. The Applicant Mr. Navlakha submitted before the court that the charges filed against him and the evidence produced were bogus and he was a human rights activist and against Naxalite ideologies. The evidence produced were inadmissible in court and the fact that the police had not interrogated him in the past one and a half years, meant there was prima facie no case against him.

  • The counsel on behalf of the state submitted that as per Sec 43D (4) of the UAPA, no anticipatory bail could be granted for offences under the Act. That the applicant was an active member of the banned organization CPI(M) and that there was sufficient evidence to show he was well connected with not just the CPI(M) party members but of other terrorist groups and separatists as well.

  • 12th November, 2019 – Hon’ble Justice S.R. Navander rejected the application for anticipatory bail and accepting the arguments made on behalf of the State, observed that there was sufficient material and evidence to indicate that the applicant was an active member of banned organization and responsible for managing the activities of said organization. Moreover, the documents produced in court indicate that the applicant was in contact with the other accused and party to the conspiracy. The Hon’ble Justice was also of the view that the investigating agency had been unable to interrogate the applicant effectively and unless he is taken in custody and interrogated thoroughly it is not possible to go to the root of the case and to trace out the different links which have been traced.

  • 15th November, 2019 – Gautam Navlakha preferred an appeal against the order of the Sessions Court with the Bombay High Court (Anticipatory Bail Application No. 2461/2019) which extended his interim protection from arrest till 2nd December, 2019.

activists

List of Advocates appearing for the applicants:

Petitoner

Advocate(s)

Case No.

Filed On

Court

Gautam Navlakha

Mr. Ashwath Sitaraman

Crim WP No. 2559/2018

28th August, 2018

Delhi High Court

Sudha Bhardwaj

Mr. Yug Mohit Chaudhry

Crim BA No 3994/2018

5th October, 2018

Special UAPA Judge, Pune

Vernon Gonsalves

Mr. Deshmukh RT

Crim BA No. 3999/2018

5th October, 2018

Special UAPA Judge, Pune

Arun Ferreira

Mr. Patil SD

Crim BA No. 4030/2018

5th October, 2018

Special UAPA Judge, Pune

Arun Ferreira

Mr. Rahul Arote

Crim BA No. 3006/2018

14th November, 2018

Bombay High Court

Vernon Gonsalves

Ms. Devyani Kulkarni

Crim BA No. 3007/2018

14th November, 2018

Bombay High Court

Sudha Bhardwaj

Mr. Yug Mohit Chaudhry

Crim BA No. 3006/2018

4th February, 2019

Bombay High Court

Gautam Navlakha

Mr. Yug Mohit Chaudhry

Criminal Writ Petition No. 4425/2018

5th October, 2018

Bombay High Court

Gautam Navlakha

Mr. A.M. Singhvi and Ms. Nitya Ramakrishnan

Supreme Court

Gautam Navlakha

Mr. Nahar Rohan

Criminal Anticipatory Bail Application No. 5240/2019

5th November, 2019

Dist & Addl Sessions Judge, Pune

Gautam Navlakha

Mr. Yug Mohit Chaudhry

Criminal Anticipatory Bail Application No. 2461/2019

13th November, 2019

Bombay High Court

Surendra Gadling

Crim BA No. 3170/2018

10th August, 2018

Dist & Addl Sessions Judge, Pune

Mahesh Raut

Mr. Deshmukh Rahul Daliprao

Crim BA No 4554/2018

3rd November, 2018

Dist & Addl Sessions Judge, Pune

Vara Vara Rao

Mr. Deshmukh Rahul Daliprao

Crim BA No 4966/2018

30th November, 2018

Dist & Addl Sessions Judge, Pune

Rona Wilson

Mr. Deshmukh Rahul Daliprao

Crim BA No 4555/2018

3rd November, 2018

Dist & Addl Sessions Judge, Pune

Shoma Sen

Mr. Deshmukh Rahul Daliprao

Crim BA No 3302/2018

18th August, 2018

Dist & Addl Sessions Judge, Pune

Sudhir Dhawale

Mr. Patil SD

Crim BA No 4552/2018

3rd November, 2018

Dist & Addl Sessions Judge, Pune

Bail Applications in Pune Sessions Court

6th November, 2019 – Criminal Bail Applications of Surendra Gadling (3170/2018), Mahesh Raut (4554/2018), Vara Vara Rao (4966/2018), Rona Wilson (4555/2018), Shoma Sen (3302/2018), Sudhir Dhawale (4552/2018) has been refused in the Pune District and Sessions Court. The Order is yet to be uploaded on the website.

Bhima Koregaon Judicial Inquiry Commission

The Commission was set up in February, 2018 by the previous Devendra Fadnavis led BJP government and has been granted four extensions so far. The current extension is set to end in February, 2020. The two-member Commission is headed by retired Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court Justice Jay Narayan Patel and present State Chief Information Commissioner of Maharashtra, Sumit Mullick. VV Palnitkar is serving as the registrar of the commission. The commission functions with the powers of a civil court in two locations; the Public Information Office at Madam Cama road, Mumbai and the Zilla Parishad building in Bundgarden, Pune.

So far around 30 people have appeared before the Commission out of which 20 have been examined. Some of the key witnesses are Advocate Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Harshali Poddar, and Senior Journalist Chandrakant Patil. However, since Gadling and Sudhir Dawale are accused in the same case, they had to back off as witnesses as their statements would impact the neutral investigation and hearing in Elgar case.

Advocate Ashish Satpute, the lawyer for the commission and the Commission is no close to submitting its report on its findings.

Recent Developments in the Case – Transfer to NIA (Till February, 2020)

21st December, 2019 – Nationalist Congress Party leader, Sharad Pawar stated that the arrests of the activists in connection with the violence was wrong and vengeful and demanded the constitution of a Special Investigation Team to probe into the actions of the police.

23rd December, 2019 – Pune Police issue notices to 160 people including right wing leaders like Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote barring them from entering the district. Milind Ekbote was arrested in March 2018 for instigating and orchestrating violence on January 1, 2018 at Bhima Koregaon village and is currently out on bail. Sambhaji Bhide was also booked but was never arrested.

10th January, 2020 – The Judicial Inquiry Commission issued summons to Milind Ekbote to appear before it. However, Mr. Ekbote refused to depose before the Commission drawing the attention to the change in the Maharashtra government and indicated that his case was likely to be hampered particularly in view of investigation pending and the change in the political spectrum which could implicate him falsely.

24th January, 2020 – National Investigation Agency informed the Maharashtra Government that the agency would be taking over the probe of the Bhima Koregaon case citing Section 6 of the NIA Act.

27th January, 2020 – NIA files a fresh FIR invoking sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth etc), 505(1)(b) (cause fear or alarm among the public) and 34 (common intention) of the IPC along with Sections 13, 16, 18, 18B, 20, 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA). The sections relate to unlawful and terrorist acts, raising funds for a terrorist act or organisation, recruiting persons and being a member of any terrorist gang or organisation.

29th January, 2020 – The NIA filed an application in the special sessions court, seeking possession of all documents and material related to the Elgaar Parishad-Koregaon Bhima violence. The officials moved a criminal miscellaneous application (Crim.M.A. 39/2020) before the Additional Sessions Judge (special) SR Navandar and prayed the court to pass necessary orders to send all the records, muddemal articles (items used for crime and recovered from rom the accused) and the case proceedings to the special NIA court in Mumbai. The plea has been posted for hearing on 3rd February, 2020.

7th February, 2020 – The Maharashtra government filed an application before the Pune District and Sessions Court objecting to the transfer of the court records, seized articles from the Pune Court to the NIA court in Mumbai. The government submitted that the offence was within the local jurisdiction of the Pune court and the investigating authority, after completion of the investigation filed the chargesheet before the Pune court and the matter was fixed for framing of the charges. District and Additional Sessions Judge S.R. Navandar will pronounce the order on 14th February, 2020.

14th February, 2020 – Bombay High Court rejected the anticipatory bail applications of Gautam Navlakha (Anticipatory Bail Application No. 2461/2019) filed on 15th November, 2019 and Anand Teltumbde (Anticipatory Bail Application 314/2019) filed on 4th February, 2019. Their interim protection from arrest was extended for four more weeks.

14th February, 2020 – Additional Sessions Judge (special) SR Navandar in Crim M.A. No. 39/2020 ordered that records and documents pertaining to the Elgar Parishad Case be transferred to a NIA Special Court in Mumbai. The judge observed that with regard to the purpose of the NIA, the order to transfer the case cannot be held to be illegal or improper. He further added that all accused were yet to be arrested although the chargesheet had been filed, so it couldn’t be termed that investigation in the case had been completed and the NIA had nothing to do. The judge also directed the accused to be produced before the NIA court in Mumbai before or on February 28.

Developments in the Cases of Gautam Navlakha and Arun Teltumbde (Till April, 2020)

12th November, 2019 – Hon’ble Justice S.R. Navander rejected the application for anticipatory bail for Gautam Navlakha (Criminal Application No. 5240/2019) in the Pune Sessions Court.

14th February, 2020 – Bombay High Court rejected the anticipatory bail applications of Gautam Navlakha (Anticipatory Bail Application No. 2461/2019) filed on 15th November, 2019 and Anand Teltumbde (Anticipatory Bail Application 314/2019) filed on 4th February, 2019. Their interim protection from arrest was extended for four more weeks.

25th February, 2020 – Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbe file Special Leave Petitions in the Supreme Court challenging the order of the Bombay High Court rejecting their anticipatory bail applications.

16th March, 2020 – The Supreme Court rejected the anticipatory bail petitions of Gautam Navlakha (SLP (Cr) No. 1842 of 2020) and Anand Teltumbde (SLP (Cr) 1916 of 2020) stating that no case was made out to exercise the powers under Sec 438 Cr.P.C. The bench dismissed their petitions and ruled that the petitioners had enjoyed protection for 1 ½ years and granted them three weeks to surrender. The top court bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and MR Shah also ordered the activists to turn in their passports.

3rd April, 2020 – Gautam Navlakha (MA 000914/2020) and Anand Teltumbde (MA 000913/2020) filed miscellaneous applications before the Supreme Court requesting an extension of time to surrender.

8th April, 2020 – Supreme Court granted one more week time to Gautam Navlakha & Anand Teltumbde to surrender and stated that since the petitioners have enjoyed the protection for long, by way of last opportunity, time of one week is granted to surrender. The bench comprising of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Indira Banerjee stated that there would be no further extension of time to the petitioners and dismissed the petitions.

14th April, 2020 – Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde surrendered before the NIA at their Delhi and Mumbai offices respectively.

Other Recent Developments (Till April, 2020)

10th January, 2020 – Shoma Sen files an application for bail (BA/118/2020) in the Bombay High Court. The case has been adjourned since then and remains pending. The next date as per the website of Bombay High Court is 29th April, 2020.

5th February, 2020 – Rona Wilson files an application for bail (BA/399/2020) in the Bombay High Court. The case remains pending. The next date as per the website of Bombay High Court is 28th April, 2020.

13th February, 2020 – Sudha Bhardwaj files an application for quashing the charges against her (WP/863/2020) in the Bombay High Court. The case remains pending. The next date as per the website of Bombay High Court is 29th November, 2021.

28th February, 2020 – Main accused – Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen and Vernon Gonsalves were produced before Special Judge D.E. Kothalikar. The judge adjourned the hearing and remanded the accused to custody till 13th March.

1st April, 2020 – Temporary bail applications of Varavara Rao and Shoma Sen were rejected by a special court in Mumbai. The petitioners sought bail in view of the pandemic and prayed before the court that they were suffering from multiple ailments and were vulnerable to the virus because of their age and medical history. The NIA objected to the plea saying various bail applications filed by the accused have been rejected in the past and there was no change in circumstances. The court said the grounds raised by the accused cannot be considered when they are charged under provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the National Investigation Agency NIA Act. Varavara Rao is currently lodged in Taloja Jail, Navi Mumbai while Shoma Sen is lodged in Byculla Prison, Mumbai.

Developments after surrender of Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde

14th April, 2020 – Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde surrendered before the NIA at their Delhi and Mumbai offices respectively.

25th April, 2020 – Bail application filed by Anand Teltumbde with the special NIA court in Mumbai was rejected and remanded Mr. Teltumbde to judicial custody. Mr. Teltumbde had sought temporary bail citing the COVID-19 pandemic and mentioned that he was suffering from respiratory problems and that he was at risk of contracting the virus. The court sent him to judicial custody for 14 days and he was moved to Arthur Road Jail. Mr. Teltumbde tested negative for coronavirus.

15th May, 2020 – Varavara Rao, Shoma Sen and Sudha Bhardwaj approached the special NIA court for bail citing ill-health and the risk of contracting coronavirus. Mr. Rao is lodged in Taloja Jail while Ms. Sen and Ms. Bhardwaj are lodged in Byculla Prison. Their applications also pointed out that several prison inmates have tested positive for infection. The court posted the matter for hearing on May 22.

22nd May, 2020 – The National Investigating Agency (NIA) has opposed the plea for interim bail filed by activists Dr Shoma Sen, Vara Vara Rao and Sudha Bhardwaj on the grounds that  the accused are booked under charges of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, hence are not eligible for release on temporary bail.

22nd May, 2020 – A special NIA court extended the judicial custody of Anand Teltumbde till 5th June, 2020.

23rd May, 2020 – The Delhi High Court on Friday sought the NIA’s response on a plea filed by Gautam Navlakha seeking interim bail. The Court asked the agency to file its response and listed the matter for further hearing on May 27.

26th May, 2020 – Gautam Navlakha shifted overnight from Delhi to Mumbai where he was remanded to judicial custody by a special NIA court till June 22. Navlakha was arrested by the NIA in April and kept at Delhi’s Tihar Jail.

28th May, 2020 – A single-judge Delhi HC bench of Justice Anup Bhambani questioned NIA’s “inexplicable, frantic hurry” in removing Gautam Navlakha from the court’s “jurisdiction”. The judge had pulled up the NIA for showing “unseemly haste” in moving him out of Delhi.

29th May, 2020 – Varavara Rao was shifted to JJ Hospital from Taloja Jail. Mr. Rao had complained of dizziness and had fainted in his cell.

30th May, 2020 – A special NIA court in Mumbai rejected the interim bail application of activist Sudha Bharadwaj. In her interim bail plea, the activist had said that she was at a high risk of contracting the virus in the prison, and in her present medical condition it could be “life-threatening”. Her lawyers had submitted before the court that she has pre-existing medical conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure.

2nd June, 2020 – The Supreme Court issued notice to Gautam Navlakha on NIA’s plea against a Delhi High Court order last week asking the central agency to present records before it in connection with the activist’s transfer to Mumbai. Appearing for the NIA, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court bench led by Justice Arun Mishra that the Delhi HC was “patently without jurisdiction”. The Supreme Court also asked the Delhi HC to not hear the activist’s plea for interim bail.

3rd June, 2020 – Varavara Rao discharged from JJ Hospital and was sent back to Taloja Jail. The hospital also conducted his COVID-19 test and the result came out negative.

5th June, 2020 – The special NIA court adjourned the interim bail application of Varavara Rao to 10th June, 2020 as Taloja Jail prison authorities did not submit Mr. Rao’s medical reports. The Court had directed JJ Hospital to submit reports on 31st May, which they had done.

10th June, 2020 – Varavara Rao’s bail application hearing before the special NOA court in Mumbai was adjourned to 12th June.

16th June 2020 — Public Interest Litigation filed through advocate Mihir Desai by People’s Union for Civil Liberties and other individual petitioners. HC notes the sorry state of prisons in Maharashtra.

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