Mumbai: With the Supreme Court stipulating that charges in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case be framed within the next three months, the focus has shifted now to the status of the accused.
In the case that is being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), of the total 16 arrested accused, Jesuit priest Stan Swamy died at a private hospital here last year during judicial custody, while Telugu poet Varavara Rao is currently out on medical bail.
Only one accused – Sudha Bharadwaj – is out on regular bail, which was granted to her by the Bombay high court in December last year, while 13 other accused are currently lodged in different jails.
The accused in the case have been charged with waging war against the nation, being active members of the banned terror outfit CPI (Maoist), criminal conspiracy and indulging in acts with an intent to strike terror in the minds of people using explosive substances.
The NIA in its draft charges sought to charge the accused under various provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The court is yet to frame charges in the case, only after which trial would commence.
The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the Elgar Parishad conclave, held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the city’s outskirts. The Pune Police, which probed the case before it was transferred to the NIA, claimed the conclave was backed by Maoists.
What is the status of the accused persons arrested in the case?
Activist Sudhir Dhawale was one of the first people to be arrested in the case in June 2018. He is presently lodged at the Taloja prison and has been accused of being an active member of the terror outfit. In July this year, a special NIA court rejected his bail plea.
Activist Rona Wilson was arrested in June 2018 from his home in Delhi and has been in jail since then. He has been described as one of the top brass of urban Maoists. His bail plea was rejected by the special court in July 2022. Wilson was granted temporary bail for 14 days by the special NIA court in September 2021 to attend a mass organised for the 30th-day ritual following his father’s death. He surrendered at the end of the 14-day period.
Lawyer Surendra Gadling was arrested in 2018 and has been in jail since then. According to the NIA, Gadling is an active member of CPI (Maoist) and was involved in the fund-raising activities and disbursement of the same. NIA also alleged that Gadling guided the violence at Koregaon Bhima in Pune. He too was refused bail by the special court in July 2022.
Professor Shoma Sen was arrested in June 2018 and has been lodged in the Byculla women’s prison since then. She had in 2021 sought bail on medical grounds and rising COVID-19 cases. The special NIA court, however, rejected her bail plea. In July 2022, the court also rejected her plea seeking default bail.
Activist Mahesh Raut is accused of spreading Maoist ideology and attempting to recruit students to join the Naxalite movement. It is alleged by the NIA that Raut had passed on Rs 5 lakh to the co-accused in the case for the Elgar Parishad event. He was arrested in 2018 and is still behind bars. His default bail plea was rejected by the special court this year.
Eighty-two-year-old Telugu poet Varavara Rao was granted medical bail by the Supreme Court on August 10, 2022. Last year, the Bombay high court granted him temporary bail on medical grounds. He was arrested in August 2018 and was in jail till February 2021 when HC granted him temporary bail. He is accused of being a senior and active member of the banned group.
Social activist and lawyer Arun Ferreira was arrested in the case in August 2018 and is presently lodged at the Taloja prison. He had sought default bail in the case but it was rejected by both the special court and the Bombay high court in February this year. Ferreira is accused of taking an active part in the Maoist movement.
Vernon Gonsalves was arrested in the case in August 2018 and is presently lodged at the Taloja prison. His bail plea was rejected by both the special court and the high court following which he approached the Supreme Court seeking bail.
Activist Sudha Bharadwaj is the only accused in the case who is out on default bail that was granted to her by the Bombay high court in December 2021. She was arrested in August 2018 and was in jail till December 2021 when she was released on bail. As per NIA, Bharadwaj was an active member of CPI (Maoist).
Anand Teltumbde, an activist and scholar, was arrested by the NIA in April 2020 after he surrendered following no relief of anticipatory bail from the Supreme Court. He is presently lodged at the Taloja prison and his bail plea has been rejected by the special court.
Seventy-year-old activist Gautam Navlakha was arrested in the case in August 2018 and has been lodged at the Taloja prison since then. In October 2021, he was shifted to the Anda Cell (high-security barracks) and has been kept in solitary confinement since then, his partner Sahba Husain claimed.
Delhi University associate professor, Hany Babu was arrested in July 2020 in the case and is presently lodged at the Taloja prison. He recently moved HC seeking bail which is yet to be heard. The NIA has accused Babu of being a co-conspirator in propagating Maoist activities and ideology on the instructions of CPI (Maoist) leaders.
Jesuit priest Stan Swamy, 83, died while in judicial custody. He had sought medical bail from the HC. Pending hearing of the same, he was shifted to a private hospital where he died on July 5, 2021. He was arrested by the NIA in October 2020 and was lodged at the Taloja prison till he was shifted to a private hospital in May 2021.
Sagar Gorkhe, a singer and anti-caste activist, was arrested by the NIA in September 2020. He is presently lodged at the Taloja prison.
Ramesh Gaichor was arrested by the NIA along with Gorkhe and is also lodged at the Taloja prison. The duo is accused of being part of a group that organised the Elgar Parishad meeting where inflammatory speeches were made.
Jyoti Jagtap, a member of the Kabir Kala Manch, was arrested in September 2020 on the charge of propagating Naxalite activities and Maoist ideology. She is presently lodged at the Byculla women’s prison in Mumbai.