In a significant challenge, Professor Anand Teltumbde, an accused in the Bhima Koregaon- Elgar Parishad Caste Violence Case, has filed a writ petition in Bombay High Court to quash the terminology "and all its formations and front organizations" attached to the banned CPI (Maoist) in the first schedule of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
He claims that the "vagueness" of the terminology is used as a tool to circumvent due process wherein the State does not notify a particular organization as banned under the UAP Act but investigating agencies keep using the 'front organization' card with impunity and no oversight, especially to oppose bail.
In the alternative, Teltumbde seeks house arrest in Goa during the pendency of the trial.
Teltumbde was arrested on April 14, last year. He and 15 other activists are booked under the UAPA and accused of furthering the banned CPI(Maoist) agenda to overthrow the government.
Some of the 'front organizations' of CPI(Maoist) cited by the NIA in the Bhima Koregaon case include Committee of Protection for Democratic Rights (CPDR), People's Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Visthapan Virodhi Janvikas Andolan (VVJA), Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee (PPSC).
Teltumbde is represented by Advocates Mihir Desai and Devyani Kulkarni.
The plea states that CPDR is one of the oldest democratic organizations founded by noted playwright Vijay Tendulkar, Peoples Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) is the oldest civil liberties organization in India with its first President being Retd Justice Tarkunde and office bearers like Arun Shourie, Girish Karnad, Justice Krishna Iyer etc, VVJA with late Father Stan Swamy as one of its founding members was concerned with the displacement of Adivasis and PPSC for their wrongful prosecution.
According to the plea, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has conveniently labelled organizations to which a particular accused is associated as "frontal organization" without showing any nexus between that organization and the scheduled terrorist organization, which is violative of Article 14, 19(1)(a) & (c) and 21 of the constitution.
"The declaration of an organization as a 'front organization' is manifestly arbitrary as the organizations and its members are liable to be prosecuted as per the provisions of the (UAP) Act but the said organizations would not be able to avail the remedy of de-notification that is afforded by section 36 of the UAP Act," his petition under Article 226 of the Constitution states.
NIA has accused Teltumbde of being the Convenor of the Elgar Parishad conference held on December 31, 2017, which allegedly led to violence at Bhima Koregaon the following day, resulting in the death of one person. Furthermore, the agency has alleged that he is a member of CPI(M) and is involved in the furtherance of their cause through his work with various 'front organizations' of the banned CPI(M) like Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF), CPDR and CRPP.
While RDF was banned in 2009, Teltumbde said he had merely given a speech at one of the organization's conferences in 2008.
"Thus, by a brush of paint, not of the Central Government but of an individual NIA officer a large number of organizations are sought to be banned. Further, the special court seems to find nothing wrong with this and appears to have granted its stamp of approval," the plea states.
Teltumbde, therefore, seeks to quash and set aside "all it's formations and front organizations" in the first schedule of UAPA as it violates Article 14, 19(1)a, 19(1)(c) and 21.
In a separate appeal under section 21 of the NIA Act, Teltumbde challenged the Special Court's order refusing him bail on July 12.
On Monday, the NIA sought time to file a reply and both petitions were listed for hearing after three weeks.
Teltumbde faces charges under sections 121, 121A, 124A, 153A, 505(1)(b), 117, 120b r/w 34 of the IPC and sections 13,16,17,18,18-B,20,38,39 and 40 of the UAPA along with 14 other activists. Father Stan Swamy, the 16th accused to be arrested, passed away on July 5.
Case Title: Dr. Anand Teltumbde v. NIA