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Bhima Koregaon: Pune Police’s Evidence Against Activists Flimsy: Sudha Bhardwaj’s Lawyer

The letters seized by the Pune police from the five activists and being dubbed as proofs of their Maoist links are “flimsy and uncorroborated” evidence, a Pune court was told Tuesday.

Defence counsel Yug Chaudhary, who is representing activist Sudha Bharadwaj, told Additional Sessions Judge K D Vadane that the activists arrested by the police were “eminent” people.

The court heard the bail pleas of Bhardwaj and another activist Vernon Gonsalves.

The police had raided the homes of prominent Left-wing activists in several states in August and arrested at least four of them for their suspected Maoist links.

The raids were carried out as part of a probe into an event — Elgaar Parishad — organised in Pune on December 31 last year, a day before the caste violence broke out between Dalits and the upper caste Marathas at Koregaon-Bhima village near the city.

Near-simultaneous searches were carried out at the residences of prominent Telugu poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Farreira in Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad, and civil rights activist Gautam Navalakha in New Delhi.

Rao, Bhardwaj and Farreira were subsequently arrested.

Chaudhary argued that the present case involving some “sensational” allegations was referred to the Supreme Court which gave a split verdict on it at a premature stage.

“The case is extra-ordinary. As after four months of investigation, police arrested some eminent people without any evidence and the evidence (seized letters) that they are producing right now is flimsy,” he said.

Chaudhary said the police arrested 60-year-old Bharadwaj, who is a professor at the National Law College in Delhi “where children of the Supreme Court and high court judges study”.

“You are arresting her on the basis of some undated, unsigned, unverified, uncorroborated, typed letters, which were found in someone’s possession. On the basis of this evidence, the police are claiming that this lady makes bombs, plants booby trap, decides which weapons need to be procured,” he said.

Chaudhary said Bhardwaj had appeared for state governments in various cases and was on a search panel for appointment of universities’ vice-chancellors, besides being a representative of the President of India.

“You are arresting a lady whose organisation has received a grant from the high court,” the defence counsel said.

Bhardhwaj has no criminal antecedents and she has sacrificed her whole life for the marginalised, he asserted.

Bharadwaj is also the vice president of the Indian Association of Peoples’ Lawyers (IAPL), headed by retired judge H Suresh, he said.

“The police are claiming that IAPL is the front organisation of the banned CPI (Maoist). The high court judges such as Abhay Thipsay and Ajit Shah had attended the IAPL event as speakers,” he pointed out.

“Are you going to arrest justices (retd) Suresh, Thipsay and Shah also?” asked Chaudhary.

He said the police were “silent” on calling the IAPL the front organisation of the CPI (Maoist) in the Supreme Court.

Citing the apex court’s order, he said the “divided verdict” in the case is itself a ground for the bail.

“The apex court has taken an extra-ordinary measure in the case by crafting the provision of house arrest and the reason behind it was that we could come and apply for the bail,” he added.

He claimed the police did not specify the grounds for Bharadwaj’s arrest and did not even produce the translated case diary in the magisterial court while seeking her transit remand.

Challenging the authenticity of the letters, allegedly seized from the activists, Chaudhary said, “Let the prosecution take as long as they want to verify and authenticate the letters and I will not press for the bail.”

“Till they verify or authenticate the letters, do not reject or allow my bail application. Keep me on interim bail,” said Chaudhary, arguing for Bharadwaj.

Before Chaudhary, senior advocate Dhairysheel Patil, who represented activist Vernon Gonsalves, argued for his bail.

“If the letters which were allegedly fabricated are thrown out in the case, the very foundation of the case will be collapsed,” he said.

The prosecution will Friday argue against bail of five accused – Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, apart from Bhardwaj.

Gadling and Sen, arrested in the Elgaar Parishad case in March this year, are currently in judicial custody of Pune police.

Ferreira, Gonsalves, Rao, and Bhardwaj are under house arrests at their respective residences.

The Supreme Court had on September 28 extended by four weeks the house arrests of Varavara Rao, Arun Farreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bhardwaj and Gautam Navalakha, who was subsequently freed by the Delhi High Court.

(This story has not been edited by LiveLaw and is from PTI feed)

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