Mumbai court rejects bail pleas of Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha

The activists falsely implicated in the Bhima Koregaon case, had applied for bail citing old age and the possibility of contracting Covid-19

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Judge D.E. Kothalikar has rejected the bail applications of Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha, accused in the Bhima Koregaon case. Both human rights activists have been in jail since April last year under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

They had sent their applications from Taloja Central Jail where they are currently lodged, and sought to be released temporarily after the jail administration directed all inmates above the age of 60 to apply for interim bail due to the pandemic. 

During the hearing, Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Prakash Shetty contended that senior journalist Gautam Navlakha had failed to submit a medical certificate along with his bail application and argued that the Covid situation has improved considerably.

Accordingly, Judge Kothalikar rejected his bail plea and was quoted by LiveLaw saying, “Needless to say that the prison authority shall provide appropriate medical aid to the applicant, whenever the situation would arise.” In May this year, Navlakha faced another setback with the Supreme Court rejecting his plea for default bail. He wanted to include the 34 days he spent under house arrest to be included in his period of detention for the purpose of granting default bail under Section 167(2) of CrPC. The Supreme Court had ruled that his house arrest was not passed under section 167.

Section 167 of CrPC provides that that whenever a person is arrested and detained in custody, the time for investigation relating to an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term of not less than 10 years, cannot ordinarily be beyond the period of 15 days, but is extendable, on the Magistrate being satisfied that adequate grounds exist for so doing, to a maximum period of 90 days.

For Teltumbde, the court held that he had sought bail on merits and since his substantive bail plea was rejected last month, this interim bail application would also not stand any ground. It is noteworthy that it was Judge Kothalikar himself, who rejected his bail application on July 12 on grounds that Professor Teltumbde was an active member of the banned CPI (Maoist) organisation and that there was prima facie evidence against him.

According to a LiveLaw report, co-accused Arun Ferreira and Surendra Gadling were also supposed to be produced from prison and argue their bail applications on August 23. However, they were not produced and are likely to be heard on September 6.

Current stage in the Bhima-Koregaon case  

The National Investigation Agency has reportedly submitted a list of seventeen draft (proposed) charges against the 15 accused, including the serious charge of waging a war against the country, which is punishable with death or imprisonment for life (section 121 of the Indian Penal Code) before the court. The 15 accused are- Varavara Rao, Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Hany Babu, Ramesh Gaichor, Jyoti Jagtap and Sagar Gorkhe.

This is a crucial stage in the criminal case against them, as the investigation agency proposes charges on the basis of the evidence available to them and submit it to the court. The court then decides on the proposed sections on the basis of evidence available against the accused persons. The accused persons can either plead guilty or the trial in the case commences and they get a chance to defend themselves against the penal sections invoked.

The NIA charges claim that the accused persons are members of a banned organisation, CPI (Maoists), whose main objective is to establish a Janta Sarkar i.e., people’s Government via a revolution supported by a commitment to protracted armed struggle to undermine and to seize power from the State.

According to an Indian Express report, the NIA, which has been investigating this case, has said that the accused conspired to organise sophisticated weapons “to attempt or cause the death of a public functionary”. The Pune police, which had conducted the initial investigation, had in its proposed draft charges said that the weapons were linked to a conspiracy to “assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi”, but the NIA doesn’t mention the Prime Minister’s name explicitly. 

Interestingly, this charge was based on recovery of a letter on the laptop of one of the accused. However, as has been revealed by an investigation of the laptop of Rona Wilson by Arsenal, an American digital forensics firm, that evidence had been planted on it over a 22 month period using malware. Following this other accused too have demanded a forensic examination of their devices, but no court has even taken cognisance of the Arsenal report yet.

An NIA official has also told mediapersons that their draft charges have not gone into specific allegations and the evidence on this will be part of the trial. The charges also include that the accused conspired to demand and organise Rs 8 crore for “annual supply of M-4 (sophisticated weapon)” and had recruited students from various universities for the commission of terrorist activities.

Besides the 15 accused, the NIA has charged six others who are reportedly absconding. Sixteen were arrested in this case initially, including Father Stan Swamy who passed away on July 5, under NIA’s custody. The case has been abated against him and the plea for a judicial inquiry into his death is pending before the Bombay High Court.


Bhima Koregaon case: NIA files draft charges under UAPA, sedition & conspiracy against 15 accused
Bhima Koregaon case: Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navalakha, Vernon Gonsalves seek interim bail
Why was Dr. Anand Teltumbde denied bail by the NIA court?
Breaking: SC dismisses Gautam Navlakha’s bail plea



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