New Delhi | The Supreme Court Tuesday deferred to next month the hearing on Maharashtra government’s appeal challenging the Bombay High Court refusal to extend the 90-day limit for filing charge sheet in the Koregaon-Bhima violence case.
The top court, which had asked the state government to submit the “gist” of allegations and the probe report filed against rights activists arrested in the case, took note of the submissions of a senior lawyer, appearing for one of the accused, that the hearing be adjourned.
“We cannot hear this today in any case. We have not read the documents, running into 8,000 pages (charge sheet and gist),” a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi told senior lawyer Indira Jaising who mentioned the matter and sought an adjournment of today’s scheduled hearing.
The bench suggested that the hearing be adjourned “sine die” (adjournment of proceedings with no date of resumption).
Jaising, representing accused Surendra Pundlik Gadling, opposed it saying that all the accused are in jail and let the case be listed for hearing on January 8.
“Madam (Jaising), you cannot have both ways!” the bench said, but later assured that a date for hearing would be fixed shortly.
Earlier, the apex court had directed the state government to submit before it by December 8 the “gist” of allegations and the charge sheet filed against arrested rights activists in the case. It had fixed the case for hearing on December 11.
The bench had said that it wanted to see the “charges” against the accused, who are in jail since their arrest in June this year.
It had also asked the state government to file a detailed report to the allegation that police had foisted another criminal case against Gadling.
The top court was hearing an appeal of the state government against a Bombay High Court order refusing to extend the time limit of 90 days by another 90 days for filing the probe report in the violence case.
The apex court had stayed the Bombay High Court order.
The Maharashtra government had on October 25 moved the apex court challenging the Bombay High Court order by which the extension of time granted to state police to conclude probe in the violence case was set aside.
The charge sheet has already been filed by the state police before a local court in the case.
The apex court had earlier refused to interfere with the arrest of five rights activists by the Maharashtra Police in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima violence case and declined to appoint a SIT for a probe into their arrest.
The Pune Police had arrested lawyer Surendra Gadling, Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen, Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale, activist Mahesh Raut and Kerala native Rona Wilson in June for their alleged links with Maoists under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
The arrests had followed raids at their residences and offices in connection with the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31 last year, which, the police claimed, had led to violence at Bhima Koregaon the next day.
Under the UAPA, a charge sheet must be filed within 90 days of arrest. However, the prosecutor can file a report before the trial court, explaining the reasons for the delay, and seek more time. If satisfied, the court can extend the time by 90 days.
In the present case, the Pune sessions court had granted the police the additional 90 days, following an application from the investigating officer (IO) and written submissions by an assistant commissioner of police (ACP).
Gadling had challenged this, saying the report and the submissions came from the police, not the prosecutor. Under the Act, the report should be filed by the prosecutor, he said.
The petition filed in the top court by the state government said the investigating officer had filed an application in the trial court under his signature giving reasons for an extension of time on August 30, 2018.
“On the very same day, the public prosecutor submitted her report/application carving out the grounds for extension of time.The public prosecutor, by way of abundant precaution, took the signature of the investigating officer. But the High Court was carried away by the fact of signature of the investigating officer and arrived at a conclusion that the report/application was not by the public prosecutor,” the plea had said.
It had also said that the high court should not have been carried away by the fact of mentioning of names of parties in detail.