One of the sixteen accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence case, Prof. Shoma Sen, has moved the Bombay High Court challenging her prosecution under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, as per some media reports.
Sen, the founder of Stree Chetna, a women rights movement and a former professor of English at Nagpur University has alleged that the case against her is based on unfounded, forged, hearsay evidence that was planted on digital devices belonging to co-accused Rona Wilson, which were “illegally” seized by the police in complete violation of the law, as per The Leaflet.
In February this year, activist Rona Wilson moved the High Court after a Massachusetts-based digital forensics firm, analysed an electronic copy of his laptop and arrived at the conclusion that an attacker used malware to infiltrate the laptop and place incriminating evidence on it.
Wilson, who has been accused of writing to a Maoist group leader, discussing the need for guns and ammunition, planning to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has demanded an inquiry by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the possible planting of evidence on his laptop before his arrest on June 6, 2018. His plea is yet to be heard by the Bombay High Court.
In lieu of this revelation, Sen has alleged in her plea that the entire case against her is based only on the said electronic evidence, according to an Indian Express report. She has pointed out that the prosecution (NIA) did not present any other corroborative evidence against her and that the “independent verifications” of the cloned copy of the evidence indicated that the same was “forged, fabricated and planted through dangerous malware”.
According to some news reports, she also referred to the regional Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) reports that have been silent on the existence of malware or the evidence of tampering and, therefore, making such electronic evidence unreliable.
According to The Leaflet, her plea reads, “The analysis of the FSL is restricted solely to aspects of forensic acquisition of the files, and searching of the hard-disks, without any examination of the source, authenticity, usage, interaction, and related metadata that could establish the origin of the documents therein. Effectively, the only objective of the FSL report is to describe the various files found on the electronic devices that were seized from the accused.”
Her petition reportedly states that the presence of an electronic record on a digital device cannot lead to the presumption that the owner of the digital device was the original source of that electronic record. Instead, an investigation of the source of an electronic record required an analysis of the metadata and technical aspects of that record, and further corroboratory evidence, so as to establish who the originator of that information was, reported The Leaflet.
Shoma Sen, who has been accused of being a member of the banned organisation Communist Party of India (Maoist) and booked under UAPA, has also contended that the said Act does not recognise frontal organisations and that it only deals with ‘unlawful associations as are notified by the Central Government following due process under Rules 3 and 4’, and ‘unlawful activities’.
“An allegation that an organisation is a frontal organisation is meaningless under the UAPA, and the UAPA does not outlaw frontal organisations, unless these organisations are either notified as an unlawful association, or shown to be carrying out unlawful activities under the Act”, she has argued according to a Leaflet report.
She was arrested by the Pune Police on June 8, 2018, for her alleged involvement in the Bhima Koregaon violence.