High Court grants ‘Default’ Bail to Sudha Bharadwaj

Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Wednesday granted bail to activist Sudha Bharadwaj. Although, court rejected default pleas of the eight co- accused arrested in connection with alleged inflammatory speeches at the December 2017 Elgar Parishad conclave in Pune.

Bharadwaj will be produced before the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on December 8, where the bail conditions will be listed and her release finalized.

The case pertains to the violence that erupted on January 1, 2018, at an event organised to mark 100 years of the Bhima-Koregaon battle leaving one person dead and several others injured.

Bharadwaj was among over a dozen activists and academics arrested in connection with the conclave that was held a day before the violence at Bhima Koregaon near Pune.

A division bench of Justices S S Shinde and NJ Jamadar, which heard Bharadwaj’s default bail application, reserved its judgement on August 4. It later heard the bail application of the eight other activists P Varavara Rao, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen and Surendra Gadling and reserved its judgement on September 1.

Bharadwaj applied for the default bail saying sessions Judge K D Vadane, who granted the Pune Police a 90-day extension to file the charge sheet, did not have jurisdiction to do so as the special NIA court was the competent court to hear cases of accused booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

Advocate Yug Chaudhry, who represented Bharadwaj, cited responses from the high court’s registry under the Right to Information Act and added Vadane was not competent to hear matters pertaining to the accused booked under UAPA. He added Vadane was not even authorized as a special judge to take cognizance of the Pune Police’s supplementary charge sheet filed in February 2019.

Chaudhry cited a Supreme Court judgement that held only special courts can hear cases under the UAPA.

Sudha Bharadwaj is the general secretary of the Chhattisgarh unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), and a member of Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS).


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