10 Feb 2021 1:04 PM GMT
Researcher Rona Wilson, the first person to be arrested in the Bhima Koregaon Case, on Wednesday, approached the Bombay High Court seeking the formation of a Special Investigation Team to inquire into the planting of fabricated documents in his computer over a course of around 22 months. Wilson, as well as 15 other civil rights activists and academics, in India, are incarcerated,...
Researcher Rona Wilson, the first person to be arrested in the Bhima Koregaon Case, on Wednesday, approached the Bombay High Court seeking the formation of a Special Investigation Team to inquire into the planting of fabricated documents in his computer over a course of around 22 months.
Wilson, as well as 15 other civil rights activists and academics, in India, are incarcerated, facing charges under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) based on letters primarily retrieved from his and co-accused Surendra Gadling's computer, to claim a conspiracy to kill the Prime Minister and overthrow the government.
His petition is buoyed by a report by Arsenal Consulting, a digital forensics consulting company in the USA, which has concluded that Wilson's computer was infected with a malware, called NetWire (available for $10 online), which was planted through an email on June 13, 2016, two years before his arrest on Jun 6, 2018.
The report shows that the hacker initially carried out surveillance and later delivered 52 documents which were stored in a hidden folder called 'Rbackup.' The last document was added just a day before Wilson's house was searched and his laptop was seized, on April 17, 2018.
The laboratory was asked to investigate 10 of the 52 documents in 'Rbackup' by the American Bar Association after Wilson's defence team was handed over a clone copy of his hard drive, in November 2019. This was a year after the chargesheet in the case was filed.
"It should be noted that this is one of the most serious cases involving evidence tampering that Arsenal has ever encountered, based on various metrics that include the vast time span between the delivery of the first and last incriminating documents." Arsenal has said in the report.
The report further shows that the folder in which most of the incriminating material has been allegedly found, was neither opened by Wilson nor was it ever opened on his computer legitimately. The hacker also synchronised these documents in such a way that they would get planted in any external memory device connected to the laptop, the petition states.
"That though the report drawn by Arsenal aims at examining only ten specific documents, a perusal of their report will bear out that it has found out existence of malware which has made material changes in the content of the system without Petitioner (Wilson) even getting a hint of it," it reads.
In his petition, Wilson seeks a stay on proceedings related to the arrest of activists in the Bhima Koregaon Case along with his immediate release as interim relief.
"It is therefore just and necessary, that this Hon'ble Court does enquire into the fraud committed on the Petitioner (Wilson) in order to frame him and his co-accused with the aim of keeping them behind bars for an indefinite period of time. The said planting and framing amounts to false prosecution with malice in fact and in law as is obvious for the selective prosecution of the accused while ignoring to prosecute the real culprits of the violence that took place on 1.1.2018…This requires a thorough enquiry by this Hon'ble Court in order to ensure that the fair name of justice is not sullied," the petition reads.
As for final reliefs, the petition seeks to quash the order of sanction to prosecute all the accused, along with the chargesheets and compensation for the "agony, harassment, violation of fundamental rights, defamation, loss to reputation, incarceration, inhuman treatment," suffered by them during this period.
Wilson has said that the SIT should include experts in Digital Forensic Analysis and be headed by a retired judge of the High Court or Supreme Court, and other appropriate persons empowered to enquire into the planting of documents to ascertain who perpetrated the crime.
It has been filed against the State, through the additional chief secretary, ACP Shivaji Pawar, the investigating officer of the case when Wilson was arrested, Ministry of Home Affairs and the National Investigating agency, which was handed over the case, last year.
Bhima Koregaon Case
The Bhima Koregaon battle was fought between 25,000 mighty Peshwa army and 500 British soldiers including people from the Mahar (Dalit) community. The names of martyrs in the war are inscribed in the memorial by the British Army then.
The hundreds of people visiting the war memorial at Bhima Koregaon were attacked on January 1, 2018, after violence erupted. They were mostly from Dalit community and one died in the stone-pelting.
An FIR was registered regarding the violence the same day. However, three years since no chargesheet has been filed in the case.
Another FIR by right wing activist Tushar Damgude, filed on January 8, 2018 and was pursued. The houses of several activists, including Rona Wilson's and advocate Surendra Gadling were searched on April 17, 2018. It was alleged that the violence at Bhima Koregaon was a result of inflammatory speeches held at the Elgaar Parishad conference, on December 31, 2017.
The scope of the investigation was eventually widened, with the Pune police claiming retrieval of incriminating documents in the form of electronic records. This included an email written by a certain 'R' to Comrade Prakash on April 18, 2017 talking of a "Rajiv Gandhi-type" operation. The email was part of the documents investigated by Arsenal.
So far, 16 people have been arrested in the case as accused — Jyoti Raghoba Jagtap, Sagar Tatyaram Gorkhe, Ramesh Murlidhar Gaichor, Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Hany Babu and Father Stan Swamy.
Most of the accused in the case were neither named in the FIR over the violence nor present during the 2017 event.