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Bombay High Court Refuses To Stay Prison Transfer Order Of Bhima Koregaon Accused Without Hearing State

Sharmeen Hakim
6 Aug 2021 2:25 PM GMT
Bombay High Court Refuses To Stay Prison Transfer Order Of Bhima Koregaon Accused Without Hearing State
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The Bombay High Court on Friday observed that the accused in the Bhima Koregaon – Elgar Parishad Case resisting their transfer out of Taloja Prison, despite repeatedly complaining about the prison authorities there, is confusing and paradoxical. "So many complaints that jail authorities there are not providing basic things, food and medicines. So now when they want to transfer,...

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The Bombay High Court on Friday observed that the accused in the Bhima Koregaon – Elgar Parishad Case resisting their transfer out of Taloja Prison, despite repeatedly complaining about the prison authorities there, is confusing and paradoxical.

"So many complaints that jail authorities there are not providing basic things, food and medicines. So now when they want to transfer, you don't want it? …The complaints against the prison officials and now these prayers not to be transferred appear to be paradoxical," Justice Shinde leading the bench said.

The bench refused to stay the transfer orders without hearing the State and adjourned the matter to Wednesday after the State sought time.

The court was seized with one plea filed by the kin of accused Dalit scholar Anand Teltumbde, civil rights lawyer Surendra Gadling and activist Sudhir Dhawale's friend. Tribal rights activist Mahesh Raut has filed the second plea.

Both petitions challenge the NIA Court's nod to transfer them out of Taloja to any other prison in Maharashtra, especially after prison Superintendent Kaustubh Kurlekar, the alleged cause of their complaints, was transferred last month.

On Friday, Advocate R Sathyanarayanan for petitioners said he would satisfy the court when it was his turn to argue. He submitted that it was unclear whether the decision to transfer them was administrative or judicial, primarily since the accused were not heard.

Advocate Vijay Hiremath appeared for Mahesh Raut.

"The Respondents appear to have been disturbed by the genuine complaints lodged by the inmates and on their own showing have treated such complaints as false, for building pressure on prison administration, and to gain personal benefit," the plea states.

The petition adds that Special NIA Judge DE Kothalikar's orders, repeatedly permitting their transfers without issuing a notice, giving a hearing to them or recording reasons, violates principles of natural justice.

It accuses the Ex- Superintendent Kurlekar - of initiating the transfers as an act of 'victimisation' for demanding their 'rights' prescribed under The Prisons Act, 1894.

Transfer to different prisons could have severe repercussions on the accused in preparing their defence against a charge sheet that runs into over twenty thousand pages, the petitioners state.

Of the 16 academics, lawyers and activists arrested in the case, 10 are lodged in Taloja Prison, three are in Byculla Women's Prison. Dr Varavara Rao, who is out on interim bail, DU Associate Professor Hany Babu who is in the Breach Candy Hospital and Father Stan Swamy, who passed away on July 5, were all lodged in Taloja.

It assails three orders passed by the Special Judge on April 1, 2021, June 17, 2021, and June 27, 2021.

The transfer applications accuse the families and lawyers of taking 'advantage' of the Covid-19 pandemic and making 'false complaints' through media, and bringing pressure on Taloja jail authority to achieve their intention, as per the plea.

Taloja's new Superintendent asked the accused twice if they wished to be transferred, but they refused, according to the petition.

Case

The National Investigation Agency has accused the civil liberties activists of being responsible for the Bhima Koregaon caste violence on January 1 and furthering the banned CPI (Maoist) agenda with a plot to overthrow the government.

They are booked 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 Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

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