The Bombay High Court on Friday rejected the bail petition of lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj, who is among those arrested in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case, Live Law reported.
Bharadwaj is currently imprisoned at the Byculla Women’s prison in Mumbai. Her bail petition stated that she was at a great risk of contracting the coronavirus because of her age and underlying medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension and pulmonary tuberculosis.
The division bench of Justices RD Dhanuka and VG Bishth said that jail authorities will provide proper medical care to Bharadwaj and rejected her petition. The bench cited a prison report, which said that Bharadwaj had been examined by a medical officer and found to be in a “satisfactory and stable” condition, The Indian Express reported.
On Tuesday, the Bombay High Court had directed the Maharashtra government to give copies of the latest medical reports of Bharadwaj, Anand Teltumbde and Vernon Gonsalves – who have also been arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case – to their families, lawyers and the National Investigation Agency.
Bharadwaj’s lawyer Ragini Ahuja told the court that there was a contradiction in the activist’s medical reports, submitted by the prison authorities and the Maharashtra government on July 23 and August 21, respectively. The report submitted by prison authorities stated that Bharadwaj suffered from ischemic heart disease, a heart problem caused by narrowing of arteries that causes reduced blood flow to the heart muscle and can lead to heart attack. The Maharashtra government’s report, however, made no mention of ischemic disease.
“The two reports are contrary to each other and the report dated August 21 might be bogus,” Ahuja was quoted as saying by The Indian Express. “How can a person recover completely of a heart condition in just four weeks.”
Bharadwaj’s daughter Maaysha Bharadwaj said on Tuesday that her mother had developed the heart ailment due to stress in jail. She added that her mother never had any heart-related complaints before she was jailed.
Bharadwaj was taken into custody on October 27, 2018, after “nearly two months of house arrest”. Bharadwaj’s daughter, along with other family members, friends and colleagues have demanded “for an early, decisive hearing for Sudha Bharadwaj’s release”. They have also asked for full access to her medical history in jail with all diagnostic notes. CIVICUS, a global collective of civil society organisations, had also expressed concern over Bharadwaj’s health in prison on Tuesday and urged the Centre to order her immediate release.
The Bhima Koregaon case
Violence broke out between Dalits and Marathas in the village of Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1, 2018. This came a day after an event in Pune called the Elgar Parishad was organised to commemorate the Battle of Bhima Koregaon in 1818 in which the Dalit Mahar soldiers fighting for the British Army defeated the Brahmin Peshwa rulers of the Maratha empire. One person died in violence during a bandh called by Dalit outfits on January 2.
The investigating agency named 11 of the 23 accused in the FIR, including activists Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, P Varavara Rao, Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Gonsalves, Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha. Except Teltumbde and Navlakha, the others were arrested by Pune Police in June and August 2018 in connection with the violence. They were accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and are still in prison.
On April 14, following the Supreme Court’s orders, activists Navlakha and Teltumbde surrendered before the NIA.
The case was initially investigated by the Pune Police but was transferred to the NIA on February 14, after the state government said it had no objection to the investigation agency’s plea for a transfer.
Weeks after the Bharatiya Janata Party lost power in Maharashtra in 2019, the Centre took away the case from Pune Police in January and handed it over to the NIA. This initially upset the new Maharashtra government, which opposed the NIA’s application for a transfer on February 7. However, the state government made a U-turn after state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh claimed that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had overruled him. Thackeray is the chief of Shiv Sena, while Deshmukh is from the Nationalist Congress Party.