Bhima Koregaon: Supreme Court dismisses NIA’s petition challenging bail granted to Dr. Anand Teltumbde

Deciding not to interfere with the order of the Bombay High Court, the SC upheld Dr. Teltumbde’s bail


ON Friday, a Supreme Court division bench comprising the Chief Justice of India (‘CJI’) Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli dismissed a special leave petition filed by the National Investigation Agency (‘NIA’) challenging the order of the Bombay High court that granted bail to Dr. Anand Teltumbde, the 73-year-old Dalit scholar, academic and activist charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (‘UAPA’) for allegedly being a senior member of the banned organisation, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) (‘CPI (Maoist)’).

Additional Solicitor General of India, Aishwarya Bhati, on behalf of the NIA, referred to letters allegedly recovered from the computers of Dr. Teltumbde and his co-accused, researcher and activist Rona Wilson, and lawyer and activist Surendra Gadling. According to Bhati, the letters indicate incriminating evidence against Dr. Teltumbde of his involvement with the CPI (Maoist). Bhati further referred to the accounts transferred to Dr. Teltumbde and his mobile locations.

Statements of the protected witnesses recorded under Sections 164 and 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure were referred to imply his planning, recruitment, and propagation of the activities of CPI (Maoist). Bhati pointed out the details of his travels within India and abroad to allegedly deliver lectures in furtherance of the CPI (Maoist) ideology.

On the submissions of Bhati, the CJI enquired about Dr. Teltumbde’s terrorist act. “What is the role attributable to [Dr. Teltumbde] which would bring the provisions of the UAPA into force?”, the CJI questioned Bhati.

Bhati submitted that even without any specific terrorist act, other offences, including Dr. Teltumbde’s alleged strong association with the CPI (Maoist) ideology, recruitment, and incitement are attracted. Referring to his academic profession, Bhati remarked, “He has a front face. It is what is going on in the garb of the front face that matters”. She prayed to the bench to look at ‘the larger canvas’ of how the CPI (Maoist) works.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Dr. Teltumbde, argued that most of the documents referred by Bhati were allegedly recovered from another co-accused, and those allegedly recovered from Dr. Teltumbde’s computer were on fact-finding activities. Sibal submitted that none of the emails or documents referred to by the NIA in the chargesheet are relevant to attract the provisions of the UAPA. “The threshold under the UAPA is very high”, Sibal remarked.

Sibal laid emphasis on the order of the Bombay High Court granting bail and contended that since Dr. Teltumbde is a Dalit scholar, whenever there was an issue pertaining to Dalits, he traveled to address it. “Being an academic does not make him (Dr. Teltumbde) a terrorist”, Sibal added. Sibal highlighted the absence of evidence to prove that Dr. Teltumbde received money from CPI (Maoist), and submitted that all expenses of his travels were paid by the respondent, Dr. Teltumbde, himself.

It was pointed out by Sibal that although he was in Pune where the Elgar Parishad event took place, there was no material to prove that he, in fact, attended the event held on December 31, 2017. It was Sibal’s contention that being referred to as ‘comrade’ in the letters, as was NIA’s submission, does not make Dr. Teltumbde a terrorist.

Sibal argued that the high court arrived at the decision that there was no prima facie nexus between Dr. Teltumbde and the alleged activities only after dealing with each of the letters and documents referred to by the NIA as incriminating evidence. In conclusion, Sibal emphasised that Dr. Teltumbde is 73 years old and has been lodged in custody for a period of two years already.

On hearing the arguments from both sides, the bench decided not to interfere with the high court’s order of granting bail and directed Dr. Teltumbde’s release. The bench, however, noted in the order that the observations made in the order of the Bombay High Court will not be considered conclusive findings at the trial stage.

Also read: Bhima Koregaon: Dr. Anand Teltumbde’s bail plea highlights flaws in the prosecution story


In April 2020, Dr. Teltumbde had to surrender to the NIA for allegedly being a senior member of the banned CPI (Maoist) and working in urban areas.

In September 2021, a special NIA court rejected Dr. Teltumbde’s bail application on medical grounds. Dr. Teltumbde had raised the contention that he suffered from chronic asthma, chronic cervical spondylitis, supraspinatus tendinopathy, and prostatomegaly.

On December 1, 2021, the special NIA court denied Dr. Teltumbde’s interim bail application to be with his 90-year-old mother in the wake of the death of his brother Milind Teltumbde, a top Naxal leader, in an encounter with security forces. On March 6 this year, the Bombay high court granted his plea to visit his mother, while also directing the Maharashtra government to consider Dr. Teltumbde’s health in respect of his mode of conveyance.

On March 31, Dr. Teltumbde moved the Bombay high court with the plea that he was wrongly charged under the UAPA, and contended that the NIA had failed to directly attribute to him any particular act of violence in the actual case. In April, Dr. Teltumbde approached the NIA’s special court seeking discharge against the charges imposed on him on the ground that the NIA had not yet produced any material before the court to actually prove that he was a member of the CPI (Maoist).

On November 18, a division bench of the Bombay High Court comprising Justices A.S. Gadkari and Milind N. Jadhav granted bail to Dr. Teltumbde. According to the directions of the high court, however, the operation of the bail order is to remain under suspension for a week, as sought by the NIA to enable it to appeal to the Supreme Court.