Three Lawyer-Activists Arrested as Pune Court rejects Bail Pleas

Rejection of bail pleas by Pune court on the last day of house arrest paves way for custody. The SC also rejected the review petition seeking extension of time for house arrests

Bhima Koregaon

While Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Fereira were feretted away by the Pune police in Mumbai within minutes of the Pune court rejecting their pleas for bail, the police waited outside Sudha Bharadwaj’s home from the midnight of October 26-27

Drama over the arrests of renowned human rights activists and lawyers continued into the midnight of Friday, October 26 as the Pune Sessions Court, in a much awaited order, dismissed the bail pleas of Arun Fereira, Vernon Gonsalves and Sudha Bharadwaj. Gautam Navlakha has been protected from arrest until November 1 and a Hyderabad Court has extended the house arrest of Varavara Rao  for three weeks.

The review petition filed by Romila Thapar and others in the Supreme Court of India was dismissed in chambers on October 26 itself though news of the same only reached the public around noon on Saturday, October 27 when it was uploaded on the website. While the Pune police had reached the homes of Fereira and Gonsalves by four p.m. on October 26, while they had also arrrived at Sudha Bharadwaj’s home outside Delhi at midnight, until 1 p.m. they had not taken her into custody. All five activists-lawyers were under house arrest for a time period until October 26, a time period extended by the Supreme Court allowing them time to seek bail or other remedies in appropriate courts.

The Bail Order of the Pune Court dismissing the bail applications may be read here.

The SC order dismissing the Review Petition may be read here.

Activists and human rights organisations, of which Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) is a part will be addressing a press conference on Saturday, October 27 at 3 p.m. to protest the high handedness of the Pune police.

On Friday, arguments continued in the Bombay High Court for over four hours on matters related to these hasty arrests. Like Anand Teltumbnde, an academic and professional, who ahd been raided on August 28 (though not arrested), Fr Stan Swamy has also moved the Bombay High Court to quash the investigations naming him as involved in crimes. He has been protected from arrest, as has Anand Teltumbde until October 31. Eighty-one year old Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest from Ranchi and an active part of all human rights movements moved his petition on October 24.

The petition filed by Fr Stan Swamy may be read here.

The FIR in the case, lodged by Pune resident Tushar Damgude on January 8 (Cr 4/2018), initially named Harshali Potdar, Sudhir Dhawale of Republican Panthers, Sagar Gorkhe, and Ramesh Gaichor, Jyoti Jagtap, Deepak Dhengle of the Pune-based Kabir Kala Manch. It claimed that the accused, as per the strategy of the CPI- Maoist, “mislead the Dalits and spread thoughts of violence” in their minds.

In an earlier bout of arrests, on June 6, the Pune police had arrested activist Rona Wilson, Nagpur-based lawyer Surendra Gadling, Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen, former Prime Minister Rural Development fellow Mahesh Raut and Sudhir Dhawale in connection with the case.

In an investigation that has, been in turn called roving and predatory, the Pune police have alleged that the suspects played a role providing funds of banned CPI-Maoists to Elgaar Parishad. All those arrested/placed under house arrest, were charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). On August 28, cops arrested Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Gonsalves, Ferreira and Gautam Navlakha, alleging them to be part of larger plan of banned CPI-Maoist to form a front called “Anti Fascist Front” to overthrow the democratic government. However, the Supreme Court, in response to a review petition placed them under house arrest, a proviso that was extended to today, October 26.

Later on September 28, SC dismissed a petition for a SIT probe in the case filed by Romila Thapar and others and said the five activists would remain under house arrest for four weeks. But the court had also said the accused could seek legal recourse at the appropriate court.

Yesterday, October 25, Thursday, a high court in Hyderabad extended Vara Vara Rao’s house arrest by three weeks. Earlier, the Delhi High Court had, on October 1, ended Navlakha’s house arrest. The Maharashtra government has moved the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court order.

Accused persons Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Ferreira, Gonsalves, and Bharadwaj had moved their bail applications before special judge K D Vadane in Pune. Opposing the bail applications, district government pleader Ujjwala Pawar had argued that investigation is at a crucial stage. Pawar produced letters recovered from the digital material seized from some of the accused persons claiming that these alleged Maoist communications show and there is a prima facie evidence to show that accused persons are active members of banned CPI-Maoist.

Defence lawyers Dhairyasheel Patil, Rahul Deshmukh, Yug Choudhary, Ragini Ahuja argued that letters being produced by police as evidence are unverified and make no sense. So Pawar produced two email communications allegedly between P Vara Vara Rao and Ganapathy,the secretary of banned CPI-Maoist.

In these emails exchanged in July this year, Pawar said that the alleged Maoist leader expressed concern about seizure of confidential letters by police and need to find out by whose negligence the letters were leaked, what method or technology was used by intelligence agencies for getting access to these letters and understand full scale of the breach.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a Bombay high court set aside an order of Pune court granting 90 days extension to the police to file a charge sheet against five persons arrested in June in the case. Justice Mridula Bhatkar ruled that the Pune court order giving the extension and thus subsequently extending the custody was ‘illegal’.

Though the order would have facilitated a default bail for the five accused as per the provisions of the law, Justice Bhatkar put a stay on her own ruling from becoming operational till November 1, after state government’s plea for the same for moving the Supreme Court against the same order.

State government then filed a special leave petition in this regard before the SC and hearing on it is expected on Monday. Meanwhile, in the view of high court order, special court in Pune decided to hear the bail applications of Gadling and Sen after November 1. And today the special court rejected bail applications of remaining three accused persons.


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