'We're Conscious It Is A Matter Of Personal Liberty' : Supreme Court After Adjourning Bail Pleas Of Bhima Koregaon Accused At NIA's Request
The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, at the request of National Investigation Agency (NIA), again adjourned the hearing of the bail applications of Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, two of the accused persons in the Bhima Koregaon case, to Monday.
Senior Advocate Rebecca John, appearing for one of petitioners, submitted before the bench comprising Justices Aniruddha Bose and Sudhanshu Dhulia, "I hope they(NIA) won't take further adjournment. Because it is a matter of personal liberty".
"We are conscious", Justice Aniruddha Bose said.
In the last hearing, after the NIA had sought adjournment of the matter, the Supreme Court had noted that the accused petitioners had been in custody for nearly five years already.
Today, the counsel appearing for the Union of India requested for adjournment saying that the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta was held up in another court.
“2 days ago also they had sought an adjournment", John said.
Justice Dhulia then asked the counsel appearing for the Union to call Mr. Mehta.
However, the Counsel replied that the Solicitor General's arguments were going on in another court.
The Bench then remarked, “this has to be heard” and deferred the matter to next Friday. The Union's counsel then sought for a further adjournment till Monday. Senior Advocate R Basant, appearing for the other petitioner, highlighted that the accused have undergone custody for over 4.5 years. John told the bench that she is relying on the order granting bail to co-accused Anand Teltumbde, which has been affirmed by the Supreme Court.
Recently, a bench led by Justice SK Kaul, displeased with the adjournment request sought in the Delhi riots conspiracy case, had observed in the adjournment order that the Union should make alternative arrangements if the Solicitor General is unavailable.
Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira have been under custody since August 28, 2018 after they were arrested over alleged Maoist links in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence of January 2018.
Justice Datta was the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court during the said period, although he was not part of the bench which heard their bail applications. Therefore, when the matter came up before the Supreme Court, Justice Dipankar Datta had recused from hearing it.
Three accused person have got bail in the case so far- Sudha Bharadwaj (default bail), Anand Teltumbde (bail on merits) and Varavara Rao (bail on medical grounds)
[Case Title: Vernon v. State of Maharashtra Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 5423 of 2022]