The trial in the Bhima Koregaon case is not likely to begin anytime soon, activist Anand Teltumbde told the Bombay High Court on Wednesday as he sought bail, reported PTI.
Teltumbde is an accused person in the Bhima Koregaon case, which pertains to caste violence in a village near Pune in 2018. Sixteen people, including Teltumbde, were arrested for allegedly plotting the violence.
The High Court is hearing the activist’s bail plea as well as his petition challenging the bail conditions under Section 43D(5) of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The section bars court from granting bail to an accused person if it finds that the accusations are prima facie true.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Telumbde’s lawyer Mihir Desai said that while his client has been charged under the stringent anti-terror law, the High Court should consider several Supreme Court verdicts that mandate that an accused person should not be kept in jail endlessly without a trial. Teltumbde was arrested in April.
Desai also told a bench of Justices SB Shukre and GA Sanap that the National Investigation Agency has claimed in its chargesheet that Teltumbde is part of a terrorist organisation and abetted it in its activities. Desai, however, argued that the activist has not been charged directly with any act of violence.
“For one to be called a terrorist, there must be an act of violence,” Desai said.
Citing another Supreme Court ruling, Desai argued that being an ordinary member of a terrorist organisation was not a crime as one needed to be its active member, reported The Indian Express.
“My contention is that my client is not even an ordinary member of a terrorist organisation,” he said.
Desai added: “Anand Teltumbde has written 16 books on the issue of caste in India. He is active in civil rights movements since 35 years. He’s reached the zenith in his career as well.”
The lawyer told the court that the central agency has found letters on the computer of activist Rona Wilson, another accused man in the case, which stated that a person called “Anand” was involved “anti-national” activities.
Desai said that the court will need to consider the authenticity of these letters. He asked that even if the court admits the letters as evidence, would the mention of “Anand” be enough to convict Teltumbde.
“If the court feels that I [Teltumbde] cannot be convicted based on the evidence before the court then I will be entitled to bail,” Desai added.
The High Court will continue hearing the plea on Thursday.
These letters are the primary evidence that the National Investigation Agency is using in its case against the accused persons. It also includes a purported letter to a Maoist militant discussing the need for guns and ammunition, and even urging the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) organisation to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
However, in February 2021, a United States-based digital forensics company, Arsenal Consulting, had stated that an attacker used malware to infiltrate Wilson’s laptop and deposited at least 10 incriminating letters on it.
A follow-up report by the digital forensics firm in April had revealed further evidence that 22 incriminating letters were planted in Wilson’s laptop.
In July, Arsenal Consulting had found that advocate Surendra Gadling’s computer was also hacked to plant evidence in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence case. Gadling is also an accused person in the case.
Both Gadling and Wilson were arrested in 2018. Arsenal Consulting had examined electronic copies of their computers, as well as their email accounts, based on a request from their lawyers.
- Bhima Koregaon case: Activist Rona Wilson was targeted by two separate hacker groups, says report
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