Elgaar case: Pune court grants State, defence time till Feb. 6

P. Varavara Rao

P. Varavara Rao  

Police, activists to file response to NIA plea to transfer case

A special court on Monday granted the respective counsels of the Pune Police as well as the arrested activists time till February 6 to file a response to the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) application seeking transfer of the Elgaar Parishad case materials to the special NIA court in Mumbai.

District government pleader Ujjwala Pawar, representing the Pune Police, submitted that she was unable to file a response without any instructions from the investigating officer (IO) in the case. Advocate Pawar said the IO was awaiting instructions from his superiors. The central agency had filed the application on January 29.

The defence counsels of the nine arrested activists submitted before the court of Additional Sessions Judge (special) S.R. Navandar that their clients had not been provided with copies of the NIA application and that they needed time to file their response. “We were told that copies of the application would be given directly to the accused incarcerated in Yerwada jail, which has not happened. While I have read the contents, the application which seeks the transfer of the case documents to the NIA court is rather loosely worded. Accordingly, we sought time to study the application properly and submit our arguments,” advocate Rohan Nahar, one of the defence counsels, told The Hindu.

Sudha Bharadwaj

Sudha Bharadwaj  

Last week, a three-member team from the NIA, led by an officer of the superintendent rank, had conferred with authorities from the Pune Police involved in the Elgaar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case and had held a review meeting. The police had informed the NIA team that as documents pertaining to the case were being presented as evidence in court, they would be handed over to the agency post an order from the Maharashtra Director General of Police.

The Centre had announced the transfer of the investigation into the Elgaar Parishad case, in which nine activists and intellectuals have been arrested so far for alleged Maoist links, from the Pune Police to the NIA.

Among those arrested in the case are poet-activist P. Varavara Rao, trade unionist Sudha Bharadwaj, activists Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut, advocate Surendra Gadling, Prof. Shoma Sen, and writer-publisher Sudhir Dhawale, all of whom are in Pune’s Yerwada prison.

The Pune Police’s case rests on a first information report (FIR) registered at the city’s Vishrambaug police station in January 2018 in connection with the Elgaar Parishad held at Pune’s Shaniwarwada Fort on December 31, 2017, as part of the bicentenary celebrations of the 1818 battle of Koregaon-Bhima. The FIR, based on a complaint by one Tushar Damgude in the immediate aftermath of the Bhima-Koregaon clash of January 1, was initially lodged against six participants, including Mr. Dhawale. Those named in the FIR were members of the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), a radical Dalit cultural troupe.

The complainant had accused the KKM activists of making a number of “inflammatory” speeches and delivering “socially divisive” presentations during the course of the troupe’s performance and recitals at the Elgaar Parishad, which lasted nearly eight hours and witnessed the participation of thousands of people from more than 250 progressive social outfits, including several left-leaning and Ambedkarite groups across Maharashtra.

The raids and subsequent arrests of the activists and academics were based on this FIR, with the Pune Police claiming to have extended the scope of their investigations to unearth alleged Maoist links of these intellectuals.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 12:33:19 AM |

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