Lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj, jailed in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case, on Friday moved the Bombay High Court for default bail, Bar and Bench reported.

Bharadwaj sought bail on the grounds that the Pune Police did not file a chargesheet against her within 90 days, as required under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The inquiry in the case was later taken over by the National Investigation Agency.

In November 2020, the Supreme Court had said that an accused person has an “indefeasible right” to default bail in case the agency handling their case fails to complete its investigation within a set time period, The Hindu had reported.

On Friday, Bharadwaj’s bail plea was listed before a single judge bench of Justice Sarang V Kotwal. The activist’s lawyer Yug Mohit Chaudhry informed the judge that cases related to the NIA’s investigations have to be heard by a division bench. After that, the judge transferred the case.

Bharadwaj, who is imprisoned in the Byculla women’s jail in Mumbai, suffers from diabetes and heart disease and has a history of tuberculosis.

In May, her daughter Maaysha Singh had urged a vacation bench of the Bombay High Court to grant her interim bail on medical grounds, considering her comorbidities and the risk of contracting Covid-19 in jail.

The High Court had disposed of the plea after being informed that Bharadwaj had received medical treatment, The Indian Express reported.

Also read: Bhima Koregaon: Bombay HC directs Maharashtra to submit medical report of activist Sudha Bharadwaj

The Bhima Koregaon case

Several activists and academicians have been jailed in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. They were accused of making inflammatory speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave held at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the authorities claim triggered the violence at Bhima-Koregaon war memorial on the next day. One person was killed and several others were injured in the incident.

The first chargesheet in the case was filed by the Pune Police in November 2018, which ran to over 5,000 pages. It named activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling and Shoma Sen, all of whom were arrested in June 2018. The police claimed that they had “active links” with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and accused the activists of plotting to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A supplementary chargesheet was filed later in February 2019, against Bharadwaj, poet Varavara Rao, activists Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves and banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) leader Ganapathy. The accused were charged with “waging war against the nation” and spreading the ideology of the CPI (Maoist), besides creating caste conflicts and hatred in the society.

The Centre transferred the case to the National Investigation Agency in January 2020 after the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Maharashtra, led by Devendra Fadnavis, was defeated.

The activists’ continued detention in crowded prisons amid the Covid-19 crisis has triggered outrage from several quarters.

Swamy and Babu had tested positive for Covid-19 in May. They were moved to hospitals. Three other accused in the Bhima Koregaon case – Mahesh Raut, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor – had also contracted the infection.

Only Rao was granted bail on medical grounds for six months in February by the Bombay High Court.