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Bhima Koreagon Case: Bombay HC Grants Default Bail to Sudha Bharadwaj, Denies Bail to 8 Other Accused

The Bombay High Court, on Wednesday, granted default bail to Sudha Bharadwaj, the 60-year-old lawyer and activist, who is one of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, Live Law reported.


However, the court rejected the bail applications of the eight other accused in the same case – Sudhir Dawale, Varavara Rao, Rona Wilson, Advocate Surendra Gadling, Professor Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira. 

The court also directed that Bharadwaj must be produced before the Special NIA (National Investigation Agency) Court on December 8 to decide the conditions of her bail.

Since 2018, 16 activists and scholars have been detained under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in the Bhima Koregaon case. The arrests were made after violence broke out during the annual celebration called the Elgar Parishad at Bhima Koregaon, a panchayat village in Maharashtra, to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon in January 2018. In 1818, Dalits of the village fought the battle as soldiers (mahars) in the British army and defeated the Brahmin Peshwa Bajirao II.

The arrested activists are said to have backed the Elgar Parishad at Bhima Koregaon and are accused of having Maoists links.

All of them have denied the charges and all have been awaiting trial for the past three years.

The Pune Police had filed a chargesheet in 2018 claiming that some documents recovered from Bharadwaj’s co-accused proved that she was an ‘active member’ of the banned organisation Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Her previous bail application, which she had filed on medical grounds, was rejected.

The High Court had reserved Bharadwaj’s bail plea for judgement on August 4 and the criminal application by others on September 1, as per the Live Law report.

Contending that the Pune sessions court was not authorised to take cognisance of the case against them in 2018-19, the petitioners argued that only a special court under the NIA Act was allowed to hear cases of those charged under UAPA. 


On this basis, the petitioners submitted that the orders that allowed the Pune police an extension to file the chargesheet in November 2018 and subsequently taking cognisance of the 1,800-page supplementary chargesheet in February 2019 would be null and void.

The High Court noted that Bharadwaj had filed an application seeking default bail on November 26, 2018, with the understanding that the 90-day period included her house arrest from August 28 to October 27, 2018. But even excluding the house-arrest period, the 90 days ended on January 25, 2019. As the supplementary chargesheet was only filed in February 2019, her bail application was valid and thus approved.

The other eight accused, however, had not filed filed such default bail petitions at the expiry of 90 days of their detention. They were thus not granted bail.

One of the co-accused, the 82-year-old Telugu poet and activist Varavara Rao is currently out on bail on medical grounds.