The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted one more week time to activists Gautam Navlakha & Anand Teltumbde to surrender in the case registered under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) alleging Maoist links in connection with Bhima Koregaon violence.
A bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra & Indira Banerjee made it clear that there will not be further extension of time. The bench observed that it expected the accused to surrender in compliance of the March 16 order of the Court.
"Though we expected that the accused would surrender, honouring the order of this Court, they have not done so. We are told that in Bombay, Courts are functioning. It would have been appropriate for the accused to surrender as the courts are open and not totally closed", the bench observed.
"However, since the petitioners have enjoyed the protection for long, by way of last opportunity, we extend the time granted to surrender for one week", the bench added.
Counsel appearing for the activists submitted that both activists were over 65 years old and suffered heart ailments.
"Going to prison during this time of Coronavirus is virtually a death sentence" added the activists' lawyer.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta vociferously opposed the plea. He added that this was "only a mechanism to buy time" and that "both activists were facing serious charges".
Bhima Koregaon : SC Grants One More Week To Navlakha & Teltumbde To Surrender #BhimaKoregaon#GautamNavlkakha#AnandTeltumbde https://t.co/SjQpPX3ICA pic.twitter.com/jgzRokdgwR— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) April 8, 2020
Bhima Koregaon : SC Grants One More Week To Navlakha & Teltumbde To Surrender #BhimaKoregaon#GautamNavlkakha#AnandTeltumbde https://t.co/SjQpPX3ICA pic.twitter.com/jgzRokdgwR
On March 16, a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and M R Shah had dismissed the special leave petitions filed by them challenging the February 15 judgments of Bombay High Court which denied them pre-arrest bail on the finding that a prima facie case was made out against them based on materials on record.
However, the bench granted the petitioners three weeks time to surrender.
The bench had said that the petitions for anticipatory bail were not maintainable, in the light of the material collected by the investigating agency. The bench referred to Section 43D(4) of UAPA, which states that anticipatory bail should not be granted if the Court is satisfied about the existence of a prima facie case.
The case pertains to the violent incidents which occurred on January 1, 2018 at Bhima Koregaon, near Pune during the Dalit organizations' commemoration of 200th anniversary of Victory of Koregaon Battle.
The Pune police alleged that violence was incited by the Elgaar Parishad meeting held at Pune the previous day. It was alleged that the meeting was organized by persons having nexus with banned Maoist organizations. The first wave of arrests were made by the police in June 2018.
The arrested persons were anti-caste activist Sudhir Dhawale, human rights lawyer Surendra Gadling, Forest Rights Act activist Mahesh Raut, retired English professor Shoma Sen and human rights activist Rona Wilson, an activist with the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners.
Later, activist-lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, Telugu poet Varavara Rao, activists Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves were arrested.
In November 2018, the police filed the first chargesheet in the case against the six persons arrested in June 2018. In February 2019, supprelementary chargesheet against Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira and Gonsalves was filed.
Navlakha and Teltumbde are not named in the chargesheet.
The National Investigation Agency took over the investigation of the case from Maharashtra Police in February.