#BhimaKoregaonArrests: Supreme Court sets aside Bombay High Court decision to not give 90-day extension to Maharashtra Police to file charge-sheet against five arrestees

THE Supreme Court of India has today, February 13, 2019, set aside the Bombay High Court decision refusing the Maharashtra Police a ninety-day extension to file the charge-sheet under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 (UAPA, 1967) against the human rights activists in Bhima Koregaon violence case. The arrestees include Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, Professor Shoma Sen and Sudhir Dhawale.

The Supreme Court has, however, clarified that since charge-sheet has been filed, the observations made in the present judgment wouldn’t affect the right of accused to seek regular bail.

The arrested human rights activists will not get a release from the benefit of ‘default bail’ and now will have to seek regular bail from the Court.

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul pronounced the judgment for CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices L Nageswara Rao and himself on the appeal filed by the Maharashtra Government against the Bombay High Court decision refusing the Maharashtra police a ninety-day extension to file a charge-sheet against the Bhima Koregaon arrestees.

Background of the case


The case arose out of the Bombay High Court’s order which held that the report as envisaged by the Section 43D of UAPA, 1967 did not comply with the law and therefore the extension granted for the filing of charge-sheet was held to be patently illegal. Resultantly, it paved way for the bail of the first set of five arrestees — the human rights activists Advocate Surendra P Gadling, journalist Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen, JNU scholar Rona Wilson and former PMRDF fellow Mahesh Raut.


The history


Bhima Koregaon is a village in Pune district of Maharashtra with historical significance to the Dalit movements in the country. On December 31, 2017, an event called Elgar ​​Parishad was organised to commemorate the January 1, 1818 victory of a small, mostly Mahars-led British battalion against the Peshwas, who were considered steeped in casteist tyranny. It was Dr B R Ambedkar who brought home the significance of the Bhima Koregaon obelisk when he visited it in 1927 on January 1 to galvanise the Dalit self-respect movement, which is what the Elgar Parishad hoped to recapture and rebuild upon, when it met on December 31, 2017.

However, on January 2, 2018, the following day, violence erupted at Bhima Koregaon. In the aftermath, the Maharashtra Police, in a nationwide crackdown, arrested prominent human rights activists on an alleged connection with the violence at Bhima Koregaon.


Legal battle


The human rights activists were represented pro bono by the battery of Senior Advocates, including Indira Jaising, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Kapil Sibal, Anand Grover, and Raju Ramchandran.

During the hearing, the Supreme Court had expressed its anguish over the trial court for hearing the matter on a Sunday, though it could have been adjourned for a day as per the request of the activists. It had asked the Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi as to “which heaven was going to fall if the matter had been heard on Monday and not on a Sunday”.

The matter assumes significance since the court had also taken cognisance of the attempt at “ever-greening”, on submission of Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, wherein she had pointed out to the court, that with agenda to scuttle the apex courts order if passed in favour of the activists, Maharashtra Police has named Advocate Surendra Gadling in another old case, which did not have any connection with the activist lawyer. She had brought it to notice of the court, that the moment he would be released from this case, he would be arrested in another case, and such ever-greening would go on and on.


The story will be updated once the judgment is uploaded on the Supreme Court’s website.

The Leaflet