Bhima Koregaon case: NIA files draft charges under UAPA, sedition & conspiracy against 15 accused

Filing of draft charges against the accused indicates that the trial could begin anytime soon. However, the lawyers of some of the accused have asked the court to dispose the applications before it, prior to framing charges

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The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has filed draft charges before the Special NIA court in Mumbai, against the 15 accused in the Elgar Parishad/Bhima Koregaon case. The filing of draft charges indicates that trial is on the verge of commencing. The Special Judge Dinesh E Kothalikar was informed that the charges were formed based on the chargesheets that have been filed against the accused. The Pune Police had filed two chargesheets in November 2018 and February 2019 whereas the NIA filed chargesheet against 8 accused in October 2020.

The copy of these draft charges has not yet been provided to the accused, reported Indian Express. The charges include various sections of the Unlawful Activities (prevention) Act (UAPA) as well as charges for criminal conspiracy, waging or attempting to wage a war or abetting a war against the Government of India, sedition, and promoting enmity under the Indian Penal Code.

The NIA has filed draft charges meaning that it is ready for trial to begin. However, the lawyers for the accused have said that they have not been given clone copies of the evidence allegedly recovered from electronic devices of the seven accused arrested last year. They have argued that unless these clone copies are provided charges cannot be framed against the accused, and accordingly, an appeal has been filed before the Bombay High Court seeking copies of these devices. However, in the absence of stay on framing of charges from the High Court, the Special NIA court has said it will go ahead with framing the charges.

The lawyers have also argued that there are applications before the Special Court itself, filed by some accused, which are pending, which include bail pleas. Special Judge Kothalikar had asked the NIA to file its responses to the applications at the next hearing, on August 23.

Now that the draft charges have been filed, the Special Court will hear the NIA as well as the accused and decide which sections can be invoked against the accused based on prima facie evidence. The Court will then read out the sections to the accused under which they have been charged and once they plead not guilty, the trial will begin.

The NIA had taken over the probe in the Elgar Parishad case from the Pune Police in 2020. While Pune police had already arrested Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira and Sudha Bharadwaj in 2018, the NIA arrested Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Hany Babu, Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor and Jyoti Jagtap, and (now deceased) Father Stan Swamy in 2020.

Father Stan Swamy’s demise in the NIA custody raised much furore and was termed as institutional murder by many. In early July, SabrangIndia’s sister organisation, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) appealed to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to release the 15 accused in the case. The letter focused on the deteriorating health of some accused like Sudha Bharadwaj and others who tested positive for Covid-19 in their incarceration which continues till date.

In a virtual press conference, former Punjab DGP Julio Ribeiro, former Haryana DGP Vikash Narain Rai and former Uttar Pradesh IG Police S. R. Darapuri raised concerns about the impact of surveillance and evidence planting, following reports from Boston-based computer forensics firm Arsenal Consulting. The report from the form found that the letters used as key evidence against the Bhima Koregaon accused were planted on computers of Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling.


Bhima Koregaon: The Truth
Release remaining Bhima Koregaon accused: CJP writes to Maharashtra CM
Another bullet from Arsenal pierces through NIA’s Bhima Koregaon case!
Citizens condemn Fr. Stan’s institutional murder under UAPA



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