The National Investigation Agency (NIA), that is investigating the Bhima Koregaon violence case, has informed the Bombay high court that jail authorities are only withholding “objectionable” letters written by the Bhima Koregaon accused.
According to Bar & Bench, the NIA filed an affidavit saying, “The letters with such objectionable, cryptic or suspicious contents are only withheld and not all the communications made by the petitioner. It is further pertinent to note that letter communication with the family members and the advocate is also allowed and the petitioner is writing letters to the advocate and his family members. Hence the present petition be dismissed with cost.”
This response was based on a plea filed by Rama Teltumbde and Susan Gonsalves, partners of accused Anand Teltumbde and Vernon Gonsalves, alleging that the superintendent of Taloja Central Prison, has been withholding letters sent to and received from their family members. As per reports, the NIA pleaded that it is permitting the family members and the accused to communicate with each other through letters and hence the present petition should be dismissed with costs. They alleged that this allegation was false and misleading.
NIA further stated that as per Section 17(10) of the Prison Rules, enough powers are provided to the superintendent of jail to withhold the incoming and outgoing of letters with objectionable, cryptic or suspicious content. With respect to Anand Teltumbde, NIA claimed that he was writing letters to some third person called “Mr. Riyaz”, and those letters contained “scandalous allegations regarding hatching of conspiracy in connection with Elgar Parishad and article making allegation regarding planting of letters in Rona Wilson’s computer”, as per B&B. The central agency also told the court that upon scrutiny of the letters written by the jailed activists, it was brought to the notice of the prison authorities that the letters written by Teltumbde and Gonsalves contained incriminating material which could hamper the trial.
A few months ago, ten accused in the case had written to the home minister of Maharashtra, alleging that Taloja Central Jail’s former Superintendent Kaustubh Kurlekar has been taking scans and saving copies of the letters exchanged between them and their family and advocates.
The letter signed by Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Mahesh Raut, Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor, read, “Mr Anand, Mr Gaichor and Mr Ferreira were served notice and accused by Superintendent Mr Kurlekar invoking powers vide of Rule 20 of Chapter 31 (Facilities to Prisoners) of the Maharashtra Jail Manual. Dr Anand for two articles, Mr Gaichor for a poem as an obituary for cultural activist and Ambedarkite Vira Saathidar and Mr Ferreira for an essay in memory of Father Stan Swamy. They were intimated that what they wrote was ‘objectionable, creating doubts relating to the investigation of Bhima Koregaon offences and propagating naxal ideology.”
Draft charges have been filed against the 15 accused under 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 trial is yet to begin. Co-accused and lawyer activist Sudha Bharadwaj, who is currently lodged in Byculla jail, had filed for default bail on grounds that the judge who took cognisance of the chargesheet in the Bhima Koregaon case was not entitled to do so, making her detention illegal. The high court reserved its order in August but has not pronounced its verdict yet.
Recently, senior journalist Gautam Navlakha also moved the high court seeking house arrest and medical examination of a lump in his chest to rule out cancer. On September 2, the court heard his petition and noted the submission made by the State to take him to Tata Cancer Hospital, Kharghar on September 3. The court also asked the NIA to file their response. The case has now been posted for hearing two months later, on December 6, 2021.