The Bombay High Court on Friday refused to grant anticipatory bail to civil rights activists Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde in the Elgar Parishad alleged Maoist links case.
The court, however, extended the interim protection from arrest granted to them for a period of four weeks so that they can approach the Supreme Court in appeal.
Justice PD Naik, while rejecting their pre-arrest bail pleas, said “prima facie evidence shows complicity of both the accused in the case”.
“On perusal of all the material on record, it can be seen that there is prima facie evidence showing complicity of applicants (Navlakha and Teltumbde) in the crime,” Justice Naik said.
The court, after perusing letters allegedly exchanged between the accused persons, noted that Navlakha, Teltumbde and the other accused persons like Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson and Sudha Bharadwaj had direct access and connections with central committee members and leaders of banned organisation CPI (Maoist).
“It was revealed during the course of investigation that Anand Teltumbde was recipient of funds from the banned terrorist organization,” the court said.
Navlakha, Teltumbde and several other activists have been booked by the Pune Police for their alleged Maoist links and several other charges following the violence at Koregaon Bhima village in Pune district on January 1, 2018.
According to Pune Police, “inflammatory” speeches and “provocative” statements made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017 had triggered caste violence at Koregaon Bhima the next day. The police alleged that the conclave was backed by Maoists.
During the probe, the police arrested Left-leaning activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao for alleged Maoist links.
These nine activists, currently in jail, are among 11 people booked by the NIA in the Elgar Parishad case.
Teltumbde and Navlakha had approached the high court seeking pre-arrest bail in November last year after a sessions court in Pune rejected their pleas.
In December last year, the high court had granted them interim protection from arrest pending disposal of their anticipatory bail pleas.
Although the Pune Police was investigating the case, the Centre had last month transferred the probe to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Pune court transfers case to Mumbai’s NIA court
A court in Pune hearing the case on Friday passed an order to transfer the case to a special NIA court in Mumbai.
Additional Sessions Judge SR Navander ordered that records and proceedings of the case be sent to the special NIA court in Mumbai, along with entire ‘muddemal property’ in sealed condition.
Before the judge passed the order, the prosecution submitted an application stating they do not have objection to the NIA’s plea seeking transfer of the case.
“….At this juncture, the investigating officer of the state agency has produced an order of the state government dated 12/02/2020 thereby directing hand over of investigation of the case to NIA,” the order said.
“Thus, it becomes clear that the state investigating agency is handing over the investigation to NIA and therefore there remained no question of entrustment of investigation to the NIA, which was raised by the accused,” said the order.
Two days ago, the state government said it has no objection to the NIA taking over the probe into the Elgar Parishad case.
The judge, in his order, directed the state police to hand over all the papers related to the investigation of the case to NIA.
“The agency (NIA) is directed to arrange for transportation of the record and proceedings, along with muddemal (related to the case),” read the order.
Judge Navander then directed that all the accused be produced before special NIA court in Mumbai on or before February 28.
The judge observed that the object and the purpose of NIA Act is to constitute an investigating agency at national level to investigate and prosecute offences affecting the sovereignty, security, and integrity of India.
“Having regard to the aim and object of the NIA Act, the order of investigation through NIA cannot be said to be illegal or improper.That apart, the order of the transfer of investigation to NIA has not been challenged nor it has been set aside. Therefore, this court has to abide by provisions of NIA Act,” said the order.
The order further added that although the charge sheet has already been filed, some of the accused are yet to be arrested.
“Therefore, it cannot be said that the investigation in the case has been completed and nothing remains to be done by NIA. Section 173 (8) of CrPC empowers NIA to make further investigation even after filing of the charge sheet. It cannot be termed as re-investigation as argued on behalf of the accused,” the judge said.
The court maintained that in the eyes of law it is not a transfer of case but sending the case to proper court due to lack of jurisdiction.
The NIA had submitted the application before the court in the last week of January.
(With PTI inputs)