The Maharashtra government as well as the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday opposed applications for "default" bail filed by some of the accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoists links case before the Bombay High Court.
After both sides concluded arguments, the court reserved its order.
Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira have challenged the power of the Pune sessions court which took cognizance of the charge sheet in 2019, and sought bail on this technical ground or "by default".
On Wednesday, senior advocate Sudeep Pasbola, Mr Dhawale's lawyer, told a bench of Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar that the accused were booked for "scheduled offenses" under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and hence only a special court for UAPA cases could have handled the case and not an ordinary sessions court.
On the other hand, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, the state government's lawyer, argued that in September 2018 the Pune court had granted extension of 90 days to Pune Police (who probed the case initially) to file a charge sheet. As the charge sheet was filed within that period, the accused were not entitled to default bail, he said.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who appeared for the NIA, made the same argument. A court taking cognizance of charge sheet has no relevance for default bail application, he added.
Advocate Mr Pasbola said the NIA's argument was that the case should have gone before a special court only after the central agency took it over in January 2020, but that was not what the law mandated.
The bench then reserved the matter for order.
Activist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, a co-accused, too had filed a similar plea earlier this year seeking default bail.
Ms Bharadwaj's counsel and senior advocate Yug Chaudhry had argued before the High Court that judge K D Vadane, who had taken cognizance of the police's charge sheet and remanded Ms Bharadwaj and seven other accused in judicial custody, was not a designated special judge.
The bench led by Justice Shinde reserved its order on Ms Bharadwaj's plea on August 4. It is yet to be pronounced.
The case relates to Elgar Parishad, a conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017. Pune Police had alleged that it had been backed by Maoists, and provocative speeches made there led to caste violence near Bhima-Koregaon war memorial the next day.
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