The National Investigation Agency filed an affidavit before the Bombay High Court on Friday, June 26, opposing the bail plea of advocate and activist Sudha Bharadwaj contending that the accused is trying to take undue advantage of the current situation due to the Covid-19 pandemic and seeking bail on medical grounds.
Affidavit has been filed by Vikram Khalate, Superintendent of Police, Head Office Branch, NIA Mumbai after Sudha Bharadwaj moved the High Court in appeal against the order of the Special Court rejecting her bail on May 29. Special Judge DE Kothalikar passed the order rejecting the said application.
The 58-year-old 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.
The affidavit of NIA 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."
Also, NIA contended that the available evidence on record clearly established the present appellant accused Sudha Bharadwaj along with other accused was involved in selecting and encouraging cadres for recruitment in the banned Maoist organisation to go underground in 'struggle area' "
The affidavit states that Bharadwaj, who is the Vice President of IAPL (Indian Association of People Lawyers) along with other co-accused is working for CPI (Maoist), a banned organisation. Moreover, the affidavit states that NIA's investigation has revealed that IAPL is a frontal organisation for CPI (Maoist).
NIA's counsel SPP Prakash Shetty had argued before the special court that the accused is being given the requisite medical attention in jail and need not be given bail. Similarly, the affidavit states-
"Argument in respect to the medical condition of the petitioner has no merit. The medical prescription attached with the present bail application is neither a reliable certificate nor carries any significance as the applicant accused Sudha Bharadwaj is suffering chronic illness since 20 years to which she is undergoing prescribed medication for the past few years.
It is clear that the pleading with regard to medical condition of the petitioner is merely a ruse to obtain an order of interim relief which is not available to the petitioner otherwise on merits of the case"
Furthermore, NIA has reiterated in its reply that considering the gravity of offences committed by Sudha Bharadwaj for which she is being prosecuted, the Court should be satisfied that she is not entitled to any relief.
A total of 11 accused have been arrested in relation to the caste violence that took place in various parts of Pune on January 1, 2018, 200th anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon Bhima. According to Pune police, the accused were involved in providing material for inciteful speeches given at the Elgar Parishad conclave organized a day before the violence. Police alleged that the violence occurred as a result of the provocative speeches given at the said conclave. As Uddhav Thackeray became Chief Minister of Maharashtra in November, the new government expressed willingness to transfer investigation in the Bhima Koregaon matter to a Special Investigation Team. However, in January, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs passed an order directing transfer of the said investigation to NIA.