The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the Maharashtra government to produce documents to show that the judge who granted an extension to the Pune Police to file the chargesheet in the Bhima Koregaon violence case and took cognisance of it was authorised to do so, PTI reported.
In a petition seeking default bail, activist Sudha Bharadwaj said that Sessions Judge KD Vadane was an additional judge and not a designated special judge. Vadane had remanded Bharadwaj and eight other activists in the case to the Pune Police’s custody in 2018.
“There were special judges, but the Pune Police preferred to go to Judge KD Vadane, who pretended to be a special judge,” Bharadwaj’s counsel informed the court, according to Live Law. “If the petition is allowed, then the orders of extension of time, the acceptance of the chargesheet, and the chargesheet in its entirety is null and void. And that would imply that they have been in illegal detention.”
Her counsel also cited Right to Information replies received from the High Court showing that Vadane had never been designated as a special judge.
During Thursday’s hearing, a bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar said the records produced by the High Court registry matched with the claim made by Bharadwaj.
Senior advocate Yug Chaudhry, representing Bharadwaj, said that in cases of those charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, a sessions judge has the power to take cognisance based only on specific instructions from the Principal District Judge.
“Show us any document through which PDJ gave powers to Vadane to hear the matter,” the bench told Maharashtra government’s Chief Public Prosecutor Aruna Pai.
Pai sought time from the court and said she will make her submissions after taking instructions from relevant authorities.
“There is no explanation coming from the government,” Chaudhry said. “The IO [investigative officer] should have explained why he didn’t go to a special judge.”
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the National Investigation Agency, opposed Chaudhry’s submission that only a special judge could have taken cognisance of the case. “The purpose for this Act [UAPA] is to punish the offender,” he said. “There has to be expeditious and early disposal of cases. Nothing is above national security. Special judges are not different from sessions judges.”
The court posted the matter for next hearing on July 15.
Bharadwaj was arrested in August 2018 and placed under house arrest. The Pune Police took her into custody in September 2018. The case was later handed over to the NIA and the trial was shifted to Mumbai.
Academics and activists Mahesh Raut, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling and Varavara Rao will benefit if the High Court rules in favour of Bharadwaj. All of them have been 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 violence at Bhima-Koregaon war memorial the next day.