The prosecution on Friday sought an extension of 90 days to file a chargesheet against activists Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bhardwaj and Varavara Rao, who were arrested in a series of raids on August 28 in connection with their alleged role in instigating caste violence in Maharashtra’s Bhima Koregaon village on January 1.
The prosecution said the investigating officer was not getting sufficient time for custodial interrogation. The sessions court in Pune, which is hearing the case, will hear the prosecution’s petition and the response of the accused on November 26.
The prosecution did not issue an advance notice to the lawyers and relatives of the accused that would have allowed them to remain present during the proceedings, said lawyer Siddharth Patil. “We got to know about this when they [the activists] were produced in court,” he said. “If you look at the prosecution’s plea, it is dated November 22. They had it ready on Thursday, and should have informed us.”
This came a day after the Bombay High Court restrained the police from arresting activists Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde and Stan Swamy till December 14. While Navlakha had also been arrested in August in connection with the case, the homes and offices of Teltumbde and Swamy had been searched.
On September 28, the Supreme Court extended by a month the house arrest of the five activists arrested in August. After the extension period expired, the Pune sessions court sent Ferreira and Gonsalves to police custody till November 6 and arrested Bharadwaj from her home in Haryana’s Faridabad. Five other activists – Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson and Sudhir Dhawale – were arrested in June as part of the same investigation. The 10 are accused of masterminding the violence in Bhima Koregaon as well as of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).