Justice Dipankar Datta of the Supreme Court on Thursday recused himself from hearing bail applications of activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in the Bhima Koregaon case, Live Law reported.

Gonsalves and Ferreira are among the 16 activists, academics and lawyers who were arrested in relation to the caste violence that broke out on January 1, 2018, in Bhima Koregaon village near Pune.

The police claim that the 16 arrested persons were involved in organising the Elgar Parishad event on December 31, 2017, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima Koregaon. Provocative speeches at this event, the police claimed, led to large-scale violence the next day.

The 16 persons have also been accused of conspiring to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi and of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Gonsalves and Ferreira have filed petitions in the Supreme Court challenging the Bombay High Court decision to deny them default bail in the case. The court had held that Gonsalves and Ferreira did not apply for the bail on time.

Under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, an accused person can only be detained up to a particular time. After this period, they have to be given bail if the police do not file a chargesheet. Bail under this section is referred to as default bail or compulsory bail.

In December 2021, the High Court had granted default bail to activist Sudha Bharadwaj, who was also one of the 16 persons arrested in the case. In her case, the court had observed that Bharadwaj had filed a bail plea before a Pune court before the chargesheet was filed in the case.

On Thursday, Gonsalves and Ferreira’s petitions were listed before Justice Datta and Justice S Ravindra Bhat. As soon as the matter was taken up, Justice Datta announced that he was recusing himself from hearing the bail applications.

Senior Advocate Rebecca John, appearing for Gonsalves, urged the Supreme Court to list the matter urgently. The bench then posted the matter for hearing on January 16.

Also read:

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  2. Reports say ‘evidence’ against Bhima Koregaon accused was planted – so why are they still in jail?