A special court Monday granted a time extension of 90 days to the Pune Police for further investigation against four accused human rights activists’ in the Bhima Koregaon case; activists Sudha Bharadwaj, P Varavara Rao, Arun Ferriera and Vernon Gonsalves. The deadline for filing a chargesheet has also been extended.
Meanwhile, the Pune Police, through district government pleader Ujwala Pawar, submitted to the court a confidential report about the progress in the probe. The special court of Additional Sessions Judge Kishor D Vadane is hearing the case.
The four activists, along with Gautam Navlakha were arrested by the police on August 28 under sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and IPC in the Elgaar Parishad case, alleging that they were part of a larger conspiracy of the banned CPI-Maoist to overthrow the Indian government.
All five were later put under house arrest for four weeks as per a Supreme Court of India order. After the house arrest period was over and their bail applications were rejected, police took Bharadwaj, Ferriera and Gonsalves into custody in October, while Varavara Rao was picked up from Telangana on November 17. On October 1, following a Delhi High Court order, Navlakha was released.
The 90-day period was to be over by November 25, if August 28 were considered the day of the arrest. A day before the deadline, Assistant Commissioner of Police Shivaji Pawar submitted an application to court, saying “…because of the orders of the SC and HC, the investigating officer is not getting sufficient period for custodial interrogation… Also, period of house arrest, which is not in accordance with provisions of CrPC, will have to be excluded from computation of… 90 days…”
On Monday, Ujwala Pawar said, “The case pertains to national security and integrity of India. There is huge electronic data that still needs to be analysed. The investigation officer has been running from pillar to post and was kept engaged attending court hearings before the SC, Bombay and Delhi HC as well as Telangana HC.”
Countering the prosecution, lawyers Rohan Nahar, Rahul Deshmukh and Rohini Ahuja, representing Rao, Gonsalves and Bharadwaj, and Ferreira, representing himself, argued as to why the accused had to be kept behind bars just because the investigation officer did not have time.
Nahar argued that police were not prohibited from interrogating the accused during their house arrest. Ahuja moved a separate application that Bharadwaj be granted bail by default as 90-day period was over.