Bhima Koregaon case: SC stays Bombay HC order refusing time extension to state police for filing chargesheet

The Supreme Court of India stayed the Bombay High Court’s order refusing extension of time to the state police for filing a chargesheet in the Bhima Koregaon violence case, PTI reported. The high court had recently stayed a trial court order that had granted further time to Maharashtra Police to file chargesheet against Surendra Gadling and four others arrested over alleged Maoist links.

After an appeal by the Maharashtra government, the apex court bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi issued notice to the rights’ activists on the plea, in contradiction to its earlier stance of refusing to interfere in the five activists’ arrest in August by Pune police over alleged connection to banned CPI-Maoist.

The police had arrested lawyer Surendra Gadling, Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen, Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale, activist Mahesh Raut and Kerala native Rona Wilson in June for their alleged links with Maoists under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and conducted raids at their residences and offices.

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On October 25, the Maharashtra government had moved the apex court challenging the Bombay High Court order by which the extension of time granted to state police to conclude probe in the Koregaon Bhima violence case was set aside.

Previously, the bench had considered the submissions of lawyer Nishant Katneshwar, appearing for the Maharashtra government, that the appeal needed to be heard on an urgent basis. The lawyer had said that if the high court order is not stayed then accused in the violence case would become entitled for grant of statutory bail for want of non-filing of chargesheet within the stipulated period.

Under the UAPA, a chargesheet must be filed within 90 days of arrest. However, the prosecutor can file a report before the trial court, explaining the reasons for the delay, and seek more time. If satisfied, the court can extend the time by 90 days.

The Pune sessions court had granted the police additional 90 days, following an application from the investigating officer (IO) and written submissions by an assistant commissioner of police (ACP).

ALSO READ: Bhima Koregaon case: Pune police produces two emails, claims top Maoist leader ‘deeply concerned’ with investigations

Gadling challenged it and said the report and the submissions came from the police, not the prosecutor. Under the Act, the report should be filed by the prosecutor, he said.

The petition filed in the top court by the state government said the investigating officer had filed an application in the trial court under his signature giving reasons for extension of time on August 30, 2018.

“On the very same day, the public prosecutor submitted her report/application carving out the grounds for extension of time.The public prosecutor, by way of abundant precaution, took signature of the investigating officer. But the High Court was carried away by the fact of signature of the investigating officer and arrived at a conclusion that the report/application was not by the public prosecutor,” the plea had said. It had also said that the high court should not have been carried away by the fact of mentioning of names of the parties in detail.

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