The Pune Police have filed an affidavit in the Bombay High Court opposing Bhima Koregaon-accused activist Rona Wilson’s petition to quash the chargesheet filed against him, Live Law reported on Tuesday.
Several activists and academics have been accused of making inflammatory speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave held at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the authorities claim triggered violence at Bhima-Koregaon war memorial the next day. One person was killed and several others were injured in the incident. Many have been jailed in connection with the violence.
Wilson had said in his petition in February that the “incriminating evidence” investigators found on his computer was planted, according to The Indian Express. His petition referred to a report by Arsenal Consulting, a United States digital forensics firm, which found that an attacker allegedly used malware to infiltrate Wilson’s laptop before his arrest in 2018 and deposited at least 10 incriminating letters on his computer.
The Pune Police used letters it found on the laptop as its primary evidence in the chargesheet they filed in case. Another report by the firm in July revealed that the computer of advocate Surendra Gadling, another detainee in the case, was also hacked to plant evidence.
However, in their affidavit, the police denied this. “This report [from Arsenal Consulting] does not form part of the charge sheets which are filed by the respondent [Pune police] and the National Investigation Agency,” the affidavit read, according to Live Law.
They added: “It is a settled position of law that documents which are not relied upon in the charge sheet cannot be relied upon by the petitioner, and as such, there is no question of looking into the report of M/s Arsenal Consulting and as such the entire contention of the petitioner deserves to be rejected.”
The Pune Police told the court that Wilson’s petition did not name the person responsible for planting the documents on his laptop. They added that the US-based firm had no right to provide its opinion in the case without the court’s permission.
The police also argued that it was premature for Wilson to challenge the Maharashtra government’s sanction to them to prosecute him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, according to The Indian Express.
“If at all the petitioner wants to contend that the sanction is not proper and the authority granting the sanction has not followed the proper procedure, it is necessary to give opportunity of being heard to the sanctioning authority and the prosecution at the time of trial,” they added, according to Bar and Bench.
The continued detention of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon case has triggered outrage from several quarters since the custodial death of 84-year-old tribal rights activist Stan Swamy on July 5. He was denied bail repeatedly, despite suffering from Parkinson’s disease and even contracting the coronavirus infection. The Jesuit priest was detained under the anti-terrorism law in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence case without any reliable evidence.