Elgar case: Accused Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira walk out of prison

The accused, Activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, are currently lodged in Taloja jail in neighbouring Navi Mumbai

August 05, 2023 11:14 am | Updated 04:11 pm IST - Mumbai

Vernon Gonsalves, one of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence case. File.

Vernon Gonsalves, one of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence case. File. | Photo Credit: PTI

 Activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, walked out of prison in Navi Mumbai on August 5 with a special court here issuing their release order a week after they were granted bail by the Supreme Court.

The two accused were lodged in Taloja jail.

Some supporters and kin of the two activists waited outside the prison to receive them, a police official said.

With their release, five out of the 16 accused arrested in the case are now out on bail. One of the 16 accused — Jesuit priest Stan Swamydied at a private hospital here in July 2021 during judicial custody.

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Earlier in the day, a lawyer linked to the case said a special court hearing cases related to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) issued their release order on Friday.

The Supreme Court on July 28 granted bail to the two accused, noting that the actual involvement of Gonsalves and Ferreira in any terrorist act has not surfaced from any third-party communications.

The Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Aniruddha Bose and Sudhanshu Dhulia granted bail to them, noting that mere holding of certain literature through which violent acts may be propagated would not attract the provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

“Considering the fact that almost five years have elapsed, we are satisfied they have made out a case for bail. The allegations are serious, no doubt, but for that reason alone, bail cannot be denied to them,” the bench said.

The Supreme Court also asked them not to leave Maharashtra without the trial court’s permission and surrender their passports.

It also directed the two activists to use one mobile each and let the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the case, know their addresses.

It also granted liberty to the NIA to seek cancellation of their bail if there is any violation of the bail conditions.

The activists had moved the top court against a Bombay High Court order rejecting their bail pleas.

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The special NIA court imposed additional conditions for their bail, directing the accused to furnish a personal recognizance (PR) bond of Rs 50,000 each and asking them not to speak to the media about the case. It also directed them to attend the proceedings before the court unless exempted from personal appearance.

Gonsalves and Ferreira were arrested in August 2018 for their alleged role in the case and were in judicial custody since then.

Three other accused in the case are already out on bail.

While scholar-activist Anand Teltumbde and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj are out on regular bail, poet Varavara Rao is out on bail on health grounds.

Another accused, activist Gautam Navlakha, is currently under house arrest as per the Supreme Court’s directions.

The prosecution’s case is that Gonsalves and Ferreira played an active role in the recruitment of and training cadres of banned CPI (Maoist), and Ferreira also had a role in managing the finances of that organisation.

The case pertains to the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017 which, according to the Pune police, was funded by Maoists.

The inflammatory speeches made there led to violence at the Koregaon Bhima war memorial in Pune the next day, police had alleged. The case was later taken over by the NIA.

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