Politics

BREAKING : Bombay High Court grants Sudha Bharadwaj default bail in the Bhima Koregaon case – denies bail to 8 other defendants

In the 2018 Bhima Koregaon – Elgar Parishad caste violence case, the Bombay High Court granted default bail to lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj.

The bail applications of the remaining eight defendants, Sudhir Dawale, Dr. P Varavara Rao, Rona Wilson, Advocate Surendra Gadling, Professor Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Vernon Gonsalves, and Arun Ferreira, were all denied by the court. They were apprehended between June and August of this year.

Sudha Bharadwaj has been ordered to appear before the Special NIA Court on December 8 to determine her bail terms. A complete copy of the order is on the way.

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Bharadwaj’s bail application was reserved for judgement on August 4 by a division bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar, while the criminal application by eight others was reserved for September 1 by a division bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar. In light of two recent Supreme Court decisions, NIA’s Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh requested a stay on the order’s execution and implementation. The court, however, refused to provide remedy, claiming that it had already weighed the orders in its decision.

When the 90-day term elapsed, Sudha Bharadwaj applied for default bail; the other eight defendants had not.

Sudha Bharadwaj had applied for default bail on November 26, 2018, according to the High Court. This was filed with the expectation that the 90-day timeframe would encompass her time spent under house arrest from August 28th to October 27th, 2018. The High Court and the Supreme Court later held in Guatam Navlkakha that the term of house arrest cannot be included in the 90-day period for the purposes of Section 43D(2) of the UAPA.

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Regardless, on November 26, 2018, the Pune Court issued an order extending the custody duration. Because the prosecution believed that the home arrest time should be included as well, they filed a request for an extension on November 25.

In any event, Sudha Bharadwaj’s 90-day tenure ended on January 25, 2019, omitting her home arrest period. On that day, her application for default bail was still pending. On February 21, 2019, the applicant, Sudha Bharadwaj, was served with a supplementary charge-sheet.

In this context, the High Court noted that Sudha Bharadwaj’s entitlement to seek default bail solidified on January 25, 2019, the date her previous application was still pending. The NIA’s claim that her application, which was submitted on November 26, 2018, was premature was rejected by the High Court.


Why were the other eight not granted default bail?

In the case of the other eight petitioners, the High Court noted that none of them had submitted an application for default bail by the time their 90-day detention period had expired.

Their case was based on the idea that the chargesheet’s cognizance is void since the Court lacked jurisdiction, and hence it should be assumed that no chargesheet has been filed against them. The High Court refused to accept this, citing the premise that an error in taking cognizance does not invalidate the proceedings.

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