Activist Sudha Bharadwaj, in jail since 2018, was today granted default bail by the Bombay High Court in the Bhima Koregaon case. She will be produced before the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on December 8, where the bail conditions will be listed and her release finalised.
The court, however, rejected the applications of eight other co-accused facing terrorism and conspiracy charges.
The case pertains to the violence that erupted on January 1, 2018, at an event organised to mark 100 years of the Bhima-Koregaon battle leaving one person dead and several others injured.
As per law, once the maximum period, that is, 60, 90 and 180 days from arrest, provided for an investigation in a case is over and no charge sheet is filed, the accused becomes entitled to be released on bail, which is called the 'default' bail.
A Division Bench of Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar had concluded the hearing and reserved the verdict in Sudha Bharadwaj's default bail plea on August 4. The NIA had opposed the bail.
Advocate Yug Chaudhry for Bharadwaj contended that Additional Sessions Judge K D Vadane of the trial court in Pune was not designated to hear matters regarding offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Mr Chaudhry said he had replies given by the Maharashtra government and the high court to RTI queries filed by Bharadwaj that said Judge Vadane had never been designated as a special judge under any legal provision.
He further told the bench that as per the CrPC, UAPA Offences were scheduled offences. The state police, as per CrPC, is permitted to continue probing the case so long as the NIA does not take over. However, the cognisance of such a case can be taken only by a special court, he said.
Associated with the trade union movement in Chhattisgarh for more than 25 years, Sudha Bharadwaj is the general secretary of the Chhattisgarh unit of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), and a member of Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS).
An alumna of Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and a Professor of National Law University, Delhi, the activist gave up her United States citizenship, and decided to pursue law and practise in Bilaspur for the tribals in Chhattisgarh.