A special court in Mumbai on Saturday extended activist Anand Teltumbde’s custody with the National Investigation Agency till April 25 in the Elgar Parishad case, PTI reported. The agency told the court that it had yet to complete the investigation, and hence custody should be extended by seven days.

Teltumbde and another activist, Gautam Navlakha, had on April 14 surrendered before the NIA court in the case.

The activists, who were directed by the Supreme Court on March 16 to surrender within three weeks, had moved a plea in the top court seeking extension of time, on the grounds that going to jail during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is “virtually a death sentence”. However, a bench led by Justice Arun Mishra had on April 8 said the time for surrender would not be extended and that this was the “last opportunity”.

On April 1, the special court had rejected the temporary bail plea of activists Varavara Rao and Shoma Sen, two other accused in the Elgar Parishad case. In their bail plea, the activists said they were suffering from multiple ailments and were vulnerable to coronavirus because of their age and medical history. Rao, 80, is currently lodged at Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai, while 61-year-old Sen is lodged at the Byculla prison in Mumbai.

Elgar Parishad case

On January 1, 2018, violence erupted between Dalits and Marathas near the village of Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra’s Pune district, where lakhs of Dalits had converged to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon. Dalit Mahar soldiers fighting for the British Army had defeated the Brahmin Peshwa rulers of the Maratha empire in the battle in 1818.

The commemoration took place a day after an event in Pune called the Elgar Parishad was organised. The Pune Police claimed that the violence in Bhima Koregaon was the result of speeches made at the Elgar Parishad event. They alleged that banned Maoist groups organised the event, and a first information report was filed in the matter.

In June 2018, the Pune Police arrested five activists and lawyers from Pune, Nagpur and Delhi, alleging that they had links to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) organisation, and played a role in organising the Elgar Parishad event. In August 2018, the police arrested five more activists – Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha. Teltumbde had at the time managed to stay out of prison by getting reprieve from the judiciary.

The case was transferred to the National Investigation Agency in January this year.