27 Sep 2023 7:45 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Wednesday (September 27) admitted the appeal by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) challenging the bail granted to tribal rights activist Mahesh Raut in the Bhima Koregaon case over alleged Maoist links. The court also extended the week-long stay granted by the Bombay High Court on the bail order, till the next date of hearing on October 5.A bench comprising...
The Supreme Court on Wednesday (September 27) admitted the appeal by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) challenging the bail granted to tribal rights activist Mahesh Raut in the Bhima Koregaon case over alleged Maoist links. The court also extended the week-long stay granted by the Bombay High Court on the bail order, till the next date of hearing on October 5.
A bench comprising Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi was hearing the central agency's special leave petition challenging the Bombay High Court’s September 21 judgment allowing Raut's bail application. Even while granting bail to Raut after noting that there was no prima facie evidence to attract the offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the high court had kept in abeyance the operation of the order for a period of one week.
During the hearing today, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the NIA, insisted that there are incriminating letters that show the links of the accused with proscribed Maoist outfits. Justice Bose, in response, said that the bench would have to hear out the appeal, directing the hearing to be deferred until next Thursday.
At this juncture, ASG Raju urged the court to extend the stay granted by the Bombay High Court that was set to expire today. However, Senior Advocate Mihir Desai, appearing for the activist, objected to this suggestion. He told the bench that Raut, a former student of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and a Prime Minister Rural Development (PMRD) fellow, has already been in jail for over five and a half years since his arrest in June 2018. The senior counsel also submitted that this case was covered by the Supreme Court's recent judgment granting bail to co-accused Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira.
"One more week will not make much difference", ASG said, pressing for a stay. The bench acceded to his request and pronounced the following order, after this brief hearing -
"Leave granted. List on October 5. The stay already granted by Bombay High Court on the operation of the judgment and order shall continue until the next date of hearing."
Mahesh Raut, a tribal rights activist, and 15 others have been accused by the National Investigation Agency of being responsible for the caste violence at Bhima Koregaon in Pune, although one of them – Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist Father Stan Swamy passed away in July 2021. He has been lodged in jail since June 2018 for offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 after being arrested in connection with the 2018 caste-based violence that broke out at Bhima Koregaon in Pune, and for having alleged links with the proscribed far-left outfit, Communist Party of India (Maoists).
The Pune police and later, the NIA contended that inflammatory speeches at Elgar Parishad – an event to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon Bhima – triggered the violent clashes that broke out between Maratha and Dalit groups near the village of Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra. This led to the 16 activists being arrested for allegedly conspiring and planning the violence and charged with various provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act based on letters and emails primarily retrieved from their electronic devices.
Last week, the Bombay High Court granted bail to Raut, making him the sixth person to get bail in this case. However, the Justices AS Gadkari and Sharmila Deshmukh stayed the operation of the order granting bail for one week at the request of the National Investigating Agency, allowing the probe agency to file an appeal in the Supreme Court.
National Investigation Agency v. Mahesh Sitaram Raut | Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 12448 of 2023
Click Here To Read/Download Order