A Special court in Mumbai on Friday rejected the interim bail application filed on behalf of tribal rights activist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj arrested in relation to the caste based violence that took place at Koregaon Bhima in Pune on January 1, 2018. The 58-year-old Bharadwaj is currently lodged in Byculla women's jail where an inmate has already tested positive for Covid-19.
Special Judge DE Kothalikar passed the order rejecting the said application. The application states that due to her age and pre-existing medical conditions, namely 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 application states-
"Confirmed news reports 2 from two weeks ago have stated that a 54-year-old inmate as well as the jail doctor in Byculla jail has tested positive for Covid-19. It is very possible that this infection has spread to more inmates / prison officials since then. This puts the Applicant at great risk of contracting this life threatening disease. According to medical advisories issued by the Government of India, the Applicant by virtue of being a diabetic and heart patient comes under the most vulnerable category of patients having lower immunity making her more susceptible to contracting coronavirus. Furthermore, the Applicant belongs to the most vulnerable category facing high fatality rate should she contract coronavirus. If the Applicant continues in incarceration there is grave danger to her life."
Advocate Wahab Khan appeared on behalf of the applicant and Special Public Prosecutor Prakash Shetty for the National Investigation Agency.
NIA opposed the interim bail plea on the ground that her earlier bail applications were rejected. SPP Prakash Shetty submitted that since she has been booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Bharadwaj cannot be granted interim relief on medical grounds citing coronavirus. He also referred to the state high-powered committee's decision wherein prisoners/undertrials eligible to be released on temporary bail as a measure to decongest prisons due to coronavirus, did not include those booked under special enactments like UAPA.
However, Wahab Khan submitted that the HPC's decision also directed courts to consider bail pleas of those exempted in its recommendations based on medical grounds or circumstances of the case.
But, Court refused to allow any form of relief to Sudha Bharadwaj, who has been in jail for almost two years. Other co-accused in the case, Shoma Sen, a 61-year-old former professor and activist along with Varavara Rao, an 81-year-old activist and poet have also sought bail on medical grounds. Their applications will be heard on June 2.
Pune police arrested Bharadwaj in August 2018 for her alleged involvement in the conspiracy to organise the Elgar Parishad public meeting in Pune on December 31, 2017, which according to the police led to the caste based violence at Koregaon Bhima the next day.