In a detailed order rejecting the interim bail plea of activist Shoma Sen, a special court in Mumbai on Friday said the mere fact that she is suffering from “some disease” cannot be a ground for her release, The Indian Express reported. Sen is an accused in the Elgar Parishad case.
Sen is currently lodged in the Byculla jail in Mumbai. She had filed her bail application on medical grounds stating that her history of hypertension, osteoarthritis and other ailments, made her more vulnerable to the coronavirus.
Last month, the court had rejected the temporary bail pleas of Sen and activist Varavara Rao, who is also an accused in the Elgar Parishad case. Rao, 80, is currently lodged at Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai.
Both of them had filed a plea for interim bail based on the recommendations of a high-powered committee constituted on orders of the Supreme Court to decongest jails. The activists had said they fall in the high-risk group of contracting the virus because of their underlying medical conditions.
However, the special court said the superintendents of the prisons have been directed to take appropriate measures in such cases. In case of Rao, the court rejected the bail saying he was immediately shifted to the hospital for further treatment and proper medical aid was provided to him. Rao was hospitalised last month after he fell unconscious in the jail.
On June 18, as many as 14 MPs had urged Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to shift Rao to a hospital facility until he recovers completely, saying the present level of care provided in the jail is not acceptable. The signatories included Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MPs Kanimozhi, Thamizhachi Thangapandian and Tiruchi Siva, Congress MPs Komatireddy Venkat Reddy, A Revanth Reddy and Uttam Kumar Reddy, among others.
On June 22, activist Gautam Navlakha, another accused in the case, had highlighted the “deplorable conditions” in a school turned into a quarantine facility in Maharashtra where he was moved. Navlakha described the situation at the interim facility during a phone conversation with his partner, Sahba Hussain.
Navlakha, Sen and Rao are among the people who are accused of making inflammatory speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave held at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which triggered violence at Bhima-Koregaon war memorial the next day.
Bhima Koregaon and Elgar Parishad cases
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 defeated the Brahmin Peshwa rulers of the Maratha empire in the battle in 1818. This happened a day after an event in Pune called the Elgar Parishad was organised to commemorate the battle. One person died in violence during a bandh called by Dalit outfits on January 2.
The Pune police conducted raids on several activists in April 2018, followed by two rounds of arrests that targeted 10 activists. On June 6, 2018, they arrested Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut from Nagpur, Sudhir Dhawale from Mumbai, and Rona Wilson from Delhi. On August 28, 2018, the police arrested five more activists – Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha.
By this time, the accusations against the activists had grown from inciting the violence in Bhima Koregaon to alleged involvement in a nationwide “Maoist” conspiracy to destabilise democracy, overthrow the government by setting up an “anti-fascist front” and plotting to assassinate Narendra Modi. All of the activists were labelled as “urban Naxalites” and accused of being members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).
The two cases were being investigated by the Pune Police, but earlier this year, the Centre transferred the Elgar Parishad inquiry to the National Investigation Agency.