Bombay HC denies extra time to police

Bombay HC denies extra time to police

In a new twist in the Elgar Parishad-Koregaon Bhima case, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday quashed the order of the Pune court that had granted additional time to the Pune police to file the charge sheet against the five arrested activists.

Justice Mridula Bhatkar held "illegal" the Pune court order granting the police an additional 90 days to file the charge sheet and consequently extending the custody of Gadling and others.

While Justice Bhatkar's verdict paves the way for Gadling and other activists to be released on bail, the state government is likely to file an appeal in the Supreme Court in a day or two challenging the high court order.

The Pune police arrested five activists and civil right defenders - lawyer Surendra Gadling, Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen, Delhi-based activist Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut, and writer-poet Sudhir Dhawale - on June 6.

The police, in the second round, arrested another five activists - P Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira - on August 28. 

The police had booked them under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), alleging they had links with Maoists.

While all those arrested on June 6 are in a Pune jail, the five arrested on August 28 are under house arrest till October 26 at the directive of the Supreme Court.

On September 2, Additional Sessions Judge K D Vadane of Shivajinagar court had granted additional time to the Pune police to file the charge sheet against the five activists arrested on June 6.

Being a lawyer, Gadling had challenged the sessions court order in the Bombay High Court.

Gadling had told the Bombay High Court that the custody was illegal as the prosecution had failed to follow the due procedure while seeking extension of time for filing the charge sheet against him and others in the case.

The UAPA mandates that the prosecuting agency in a case must file its charge sheet within 90 days from the arrest of a person. But if there is a delay on a valid ground, the public prosecutor in the case is permitted to file a report before the trial court explaining the reasons for the delay, and seek more time.

In this case, however, the extension was granted based on an application and a written submission made by the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), and the Investigating Officer (IO) probing the case, respectively.

Quashing the Pune court order, Justice Bhatkar questioned why the lower court had permitted the IO and the ACP to argue independently when the prosecutor was present in court.