The Pune District and Sessions Court on Thursday granted bail to Hindutva leader Milind Ekbote, prime accused in the Bhima-Koregaon riots case.
Judge S.M. Menjoge granted relief to Mr. Ekbote on a bond of ₹25,000. His passport had earlier been impounded by the police.
Mr. Ekbote, who heads the rightwing group ‘Samasta Hindu Aghadi’, had earlier been booked by the Pune Police in two separate FIRs for inciting violence and rioting under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and sections of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The arguments on his bail plea concluded on Tuesday, with District government pleader Ujjwala Pawar opposing relief to Mr. Ekbote on grounds that there was enough evidence against him and that he indulged in activities prejudicial to social peace and harmony.
Ms. Pawar had further drawn the court’s attention to the “inflammatory” and “socially divisive” pamphlets allegedly distributed by Mr. Ekbote some days ahead of the riots.
Mr. Ekbote’s defence counsel, S. K. Jain had argued that the conspiracy charge against his client was untenable as he was not present during the clashes.
Advocate Tosif Shaikh, who had filed an intervention application on behalf of one of the witnesses Anjana Gaikwad, told The Hindu that he would be submitting a proposal to invoke the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against the Hindutva leader to the Pune District Collector’s office.
Violent clashes marred the bicentenary celebrations of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon, on January 1 which left one person dead besides aggravating social tensions across Maharashtra. Two FIRs were lodged against Mr. Ekbote, and Sambhaji Bhide, the head of ‘Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan’, for orchestrating the riots.
Mr. Ekbote, who has a rash of charges against him following the riots, was finally arrested by a team of the Pune Rural Police on March 14 after the Supreme Court cancelled his interim bail relief.
Mr. Ekbote’s anticipatory bail application was rejected by the Pune Sessions court on January 22 and again by the Bombay High Court on February 2.
On February 6, the Pune sessions court had issued an arrest warrant for the rightwing leader, who then moved the Supreme Court for interim bail the next day (on February 7) which was granted to him.
However, on March 14, the apex court cancelled any further extensions of Ekbote’s interim relief, following which the Pune police arrested him.
Accordingly, the Pune District and Sessions court directed Mr. Ekbote to be sent to police custody till March 19. After a two-day extension, he was sent to a 14-day judicial custody. Following the expiry of his judicial custody, he was granted bail by the Sessions Court on April 4 in the case lodged against him under the Atrocities Act.
However, a court in Shirur Taluk in Pune district had directed him to police custody the same day in a case pertaining to rioting and inciting violence. Today, he has given bail in this case as well.