A special court in Pune on Sunday granted the city police an extension of 90 days to file a chargesheet against five activists – Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson and Sudhir Dhawale – arrested on June 6 in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence, ANI reported. The police had filed an application on Saturday seeking such an extension.

The police have alleged that the accused organised the Elgaar Parishad, an event to mark the 200th year of the battle of Bhima Koregaon, in Pune on December 31, a day before clashes erupted there. They claim the accused are members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

The police told the special court that the extra time was required because they have voluminous amounts of data and additional seized material which needs to be investigated. Permission from the government is also required to file a chargesheet.

Defence lawyer Rahul Deshmukh said on Saturday, “Police had not given notices to them [the activists arrested] about extension [to file chargesheet] when they were brought to court. They were served notices when they were still in van after reaching the court today morning.” Deshmukh added that the defence lawyers told the court that they needed time to know their case and decide on arguments. “As defence lawyers we were not even aware of the happening. When we saw a crowd at the court and after enquiry found out that five activists were brought in the court.”

Deshmukh said that the court adjourned the hearing after they pleaded for time to study the police application.

The initial deadline of 90 days for filing the chargesheet will expire on September 3. Deshmukh said the defence asked for the next hearing to be held on that day. But the investigating officer in the case has to attend a Supreme Court hearing on Monday into the arrests of five more activists on August 28. Therefore, the court decided to hold the trial on Sunday itself.

More arrests last week

Five activists and lawyers were arrested on Tuesday, August 28, after teams of the Pune Police raided the homes of nine human rights activists across the country. The authorities claimed that these people had been involved in an event in Pune on December 31 during which inflammatory speeches were made that sparked caste violence in Bhima Koregaon, 30 km away, the next day.

Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira were arrested in Mumbai, Gautam Navlakha in New Delhi, Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, and Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad.

The police claimed to have arrested these five after obtaining evidence from raids on five other activists who had been arrested on June 6 – Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut and Sudhir Dhawale.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court has ordered that the five activists be kept under house arrest till September 6.