Activists Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, and Vernon Gonsalves have been in jail since August 2018. After hearing their bail Petition plea for two months, Justice SV Kotwal rejected it. All three have been booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, for allegedly inciting caste-based violence at Bhima-Koregaon on January 1st, 2018.
According to LiveLaw, hearing a petition for over a month is highly unusual.
Arguing on behalf of the petitioners, the attorneys pointed out that the evidence for holding the activists in Yerwada jail is flimsy at best, with no concrete names or dates mentioned in any documents connecting them to the incident.
Sudha Bharadwaj’s counsel Mr. Yug Chaudhury stated that none of the evidence supposedly indicting the activists should be admissible in a court of law. Bharadwaj pointed out that the court did not have an original version of any document, which also means that they cannot connect any of the documents to her via handwriting analysis. None of the documents are signed, verified or authenticated.
Activist Arun Ferreira has been booked under the draconian UAPA before, spending 5 years in Nagpur jail previously. In connection with the Bhima-Koregaon case, Pune police had alleged that Ferreira attended a meeting celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the Naxalbari movement. Ferreira’s counsel Sudeep Pasbola refuted these claims.
The Pune police has accused the trio of having strong connections with Maoists and being ‘anti-nationals’. Justice Kotwal himself opined that there was prima facie evidence connecting the three with CPI (Maoist), which is a banned organization, and attracts the UAPA.
According to the Prosecution, the three accused are a part of various organizations which act as a front for the CPI(M), whose ultimate aim is to ‘destabilize the nation’.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court also disposed of the petition by activist Gautam Navlakha, which would quash an FIR against him. The head of the bench, Justice Arun Mishra, explained that it was not proper to quash an FIR during an ongoing investigation. This was in spite of the efforts of senior Advocate Dr. AM Singhvi, who submitted that Navlakha should not be charged under the UAPA.
The Maharashtra state government claim that they have hard evidence connecting Navlakha with ‘Maoist conspiracies’.