The Bombay High Court on Wednesday dismissed a petition filed by activists Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, seeking a review of an earlier order in which the court had refused to grant them default bail in the Bhima Koregaon case, Live Law reported.
While Rao is currently on medical bail, Ferreira and Gonsalves are in custody in Mumbai.
On December 1, the Bombay High Court had denied default bail to eight accused persons in the case– Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Rao, Gonsalves and Ferreira. The court held that the petitioners had not applied for the bail on time.
However, on the same day, the court had granted default bail to activist Sudha Bharadwaj, who was also one of the 16 people arrested in the case. In her case, the court observed that Bharadwaj had filed a bail plea before a Pune court on time before the chargesheet was filed in the case.
The eight accused persons had claimed that their bail was denied on account of a factual error and had moved a plea for rectification in the order. They said, like Bharadwaj, they had also filed the default bail applications in the trial court within the stipulated period.
Gonsalves, Rao and Ferreira had contended that they had applied for default bail four days after Bharadwaj did and were also entitled to the relief.
The National Investigation Team Agency, which is investigating the case, opposed the plea saying that the accused persons were seeking the same prayer of default bail under the guise of a review, which was an abuse of the law, PTI reported.
The agency had argued that the accused should have approached the Supreme Court for the appeal instead of the High Court, according to Live Law.
At Wednesday’s hearing, a division bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar said they did not find any factual error in the court’s earlier judgement. The bench had reserved its judgement in the plea on March 22.
“No case for exercise of review jurisdiction is made out,” the court said in its order. “A point which was not urged, is impermissible to be reviewed.”
The Bhima Koregaon case
The first chargesheet in the case was filed by the Pune Police in November 2018, which ran to over 5,000 pages. It named activists Dhawale, Wilson, Gadling, Shoma Sen, and Mahesh Raut, all of whom were arrested in June 2018.
The police claimed that they had “active links” with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and accused the activists of plotting to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
One of the accused, 84-year-old tribal rights activist Stan Swamy, died in custody in July. Swamy, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease and also contracted the coronavirus infection while in prison, was repeatedly denied bail despite his deteriorating health condition.
A supplementary chargesheet was filed later in February 2019, against Bharadwaj, Rao, Ferreira,Gonsalves and banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) leader Ganapathy. The accused were charged with “waging war against the nation” and spreading the ideology of the CPI (Maoist), besides creating caste conflicts and hatred in the society.
The Centre transferred the case to the National Investigation Agency in January 2020 after the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Maharashtra, led by Devendra Fadnavis, was defeated.
The continued imprisonment of activists and academicians in the Bhima Koregaon case based on allegedly flimsy evidence has been criticised by members of civil society.
In February, a United States-based digital forensics firm had found that at least 10 incriminating letters were planted on the laptop of one of the accused Rona Wilson. In July, it emerged that evidence was also planted on another detainee Surendra Gadling’s computer.