The Bombay High Court on Friday granted bail to activist Anand Teltumbde, one of the accused persons in the Bhima Koregaon case, Bar and Bench reported.
However, the bench of Justices AS Gadkari and Milind Jadhav put a stay on the order for a week on the National Investigation Agency’s request for filing an appeal against the verdict in the Supreme Court.
The High Court has directed Teltumbde to furnish a personal bail bond of Rs 1 lakh and two sureties, Live Law reported.
The judges observed that offences under Sections 13 (unlawful activities), 16 (terrorist act) and 18 (conspiracy) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act were not made out against Teltumbde. Only offences under Sections 38 (membership of terrorist organisation) and 39 (support given to terrorist organisation) of the law could be proved, the bail order stated.
Teltumbde was among the 16 persons arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case, which pertains to caste violence in a village near Pune in 2018. He was arrested in April 2020. He is a noted writer of several books and has worked as a senior professor at the Goa Institute of Management.
The National Investigation Agency has claimed that Teltumbde was among the convenors of the Elgar Parishad held on December 31, 2017, which allegedly sparked the violence at Bhima Koregaon on the following day.
The agency also accused him of motivating his brother Milind Teltumbde to join the Maoist movement, and of sharing “banned literature” with him. Milind Teltumbde was among the 26 alleged Maoists killed in a gunfight with security forces in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district on November 13 last year.
Meanwhile, in his bail petition, Anand Teltumbde contended that he has been critical of the Maoist ideology, and had not contacted his brother for 25 years before his death. He also claimed that two protected witnesses who made allegations against him were “prima facie tutored with a desperate attempt to corroborate the prosecution’s case”.
NIA stalling court orders
Teltumbde’s bail order came on a day when the Supreme Court is slated to hear an application filed by the National Investigation Agency challenging the permission for house arrest of activist Gautam Navlakha, one of the co-accused persons in the Bhima Koregaon case.
On November 10, the Supreme Court had allowed Navlakha to be placed under house arrest for a month. This was after the 70-year-old activist filed a plea seeking to be shifted from jail on the grounds of ill health and poor facilities in prison.
However, Navlakha continues to be lodged at the Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai faced with bureaucratic hurdles and objections from the National Investigation Agency.
On Wednesday, a special court put the house arrest on hold after the National Investigation Agency contended that the building where Navlakha wants to stay during house arrest has three entry points and exits, and there are no CCTV cameras at the exit points.
CCTV cameras at every entry and exit point of the home was one of the conditions set by the Supreme Court for Navlakha’s house arrest.
The National Investigation Agency said that the building’s ground floor functions as a public library, which it argued would make it “very difficult to keep a vigil on the accused”, according to PTI. It also raised objections about the building owner identifying as “secretary of the Communist Party”.
The agency has filed a fresh application in the Supreme Court seeking to vacate the order on house arrest, according to Live Law. It has claimed that the medical reports cited by Navlakha in the Supreme Court were biased since they were prepared by Mumbai’s Jaslok Hospital, where a senior doctor – S Kothari – is the activist’s brother-in-law.
Meanwhile, Navlakha has also filed an application claiming that the agency did not comply with a direction to inspect the proposed location of the house arrest within 48 hours.
Earlier, Navlakha could not be shifted from jail immediately after the Supreme Court order on November 10 due to another administrative hindrance.
Among the conditions laid down by the Supreme Court while allowing the house arrest, was that the activist needed to produce a surety of Rs 2 lakh by November 14, as proof of solvency. Navlakha could not be shifted from jail initially as he could not produce the document.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court waived the requirement after Navlakha’s lawyers said that it would take at least six weeks to secure a solvency certificate.
Bhima Koregaon case
The Elgar Parishad event took place in Pune on December 31, 2017, a day before clashes broke out between Maratha and Dalit groups near the Bhima Koregaon village.
Dalit groups and individuals have accused Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide of instigating the violence through hate speeches before the incident. However, the focus of the National Investigation Agency has been on the Elgar Parishad event being part of a larger Maoist conspiracy to stoke caste violence, destabilise the Central government and assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Centre transferred the case to the National Investigation Agency in January 2020.