A Maharashtra court on Monday granted the Pune Police an extension of 90 days to file a supplementary chargesheet against activists Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao, who were arrested in August for their alleged role in instigating caste violence in Bhima Koregaon village on January 1, PTI reported.
On November 23, the prosecution had sought a three-month extension on the grounds that the investigating officer was not getting enough time for custodial interrogation and that sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act have been applied in the case. While the Indian Penal Code requires a chargesheet to be filed within 90 days of arresting an accused, an extension of 90 days can be obtained under sections of the UAPA.
A month after the five activists were arrested on August 28, the Supreme Court had extended their house arrest by 30 days. After the extension expired, the Pune sessions court last month had sent Ferreira and Gonsalves to police custody till November 6 and arrested Bhardwaj from her home in Haryana’s Faridabad.
Public prosecutor Ujjwala Pawar told the sessions court that the accused, when under house arrest, were not interrogated and Additional Commissioner of Police Shivaji Pawar needed more time to investigate. She claimed the police had intercepted coded communication between Rao and Communist Party of India (Maoist) leader Ganapathy and that enforcement agencies would require time to forensically examine all the electronic communication.
Defence lawyers opposed the plea for extension and sought to know what had prevented the police from interrogating the accused while they were in custody. However, District and Sessions Judge Kishor D Vadane granted the Pune Police the 90-day extension.
Five other activists – Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson and Sudhir Dhawale – were arrested in June as part of the same investigation and the police have already filed a chargesheet against them. 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).
The Bombay High Court last week granted activist Gautam Navlakha, who was also arrested in the multi-city raids in August, protection from arrest till December 14. The court also restrained the police from arresting activists Anand Teltumbde and Stan Swamy, whose homes and offices had been searched in August.