The Bombay High Court on Friday while hearing an appeal filed by lawyer and tribal rights activist Sudha Bharadwaj directed the National Investigation Agency and state government to take instructions regarding the prevailing conditions in Byculla jail and the social distancing measures being implemented in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Division bench of Justice SS Shinde and Justice Madhav Jamdar heard the appeal filed against rejection of bail by a special court on May 29. The 59-year-old Bharadwaj is accused of being a part of the naxalite movement and having played a role in inciting the caste based violence that took place on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018.
Previously, NIA opposed her bail and contended that the accused is trying to take undue advantage of the current situation due to the Covid-19 pandemic as she is seeking bail on medical grounds.
Bharadwaj, who is booked for various offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, is currently lodged in Byculla women's prison where an inmate has already tested positive for Covid-19. The bail application stated that due to her age and pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, Bharadwaj is at a high risk of contracting coronavirus in prison, and that this infection in her present medical condition would be life threatening.
NIA's affidavit states-
"The appellant accused Sudha Bhardwaj under the garb of current situation on the account global pandemic COVID-19, is trying to take an undue benefit of the aforesaid situation in seeking bail on the grounds mentioned in her application."
Moreover, another accused in the case, 81-year-old Varvara Rao's appeal against rejection of bail by the same special court also came up for hearing before another bench but as the public prosecutor could not attend the hearing, hence the matter was adjourned to July 17.