Gadchiroli arson case: Supreme Court allows state time to file counter-affidavit in Gadling bail plea

Senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for Gadling, stated that evidence recovered from Gadling in the Bhima Koregaon case is being repurposed for use in the Gadchiroli arson case.

ON Wednesday, the Supreme Court allowed the Maharashtra government time to file a counter-affidavit in the bail plea by human rights lawyer and Dalit rights activist Surendra Gadling.

A division Bench of the high court comprising Justices Aniruddha Bose and Augustine George Masih was hearing the bail application filed by Gadling, challenging the Order of the Bombay High Court dated January 31.

Gadling is charged under the Gadchiroli arson case, where Maoists allegedly set fire to over 80 vehicles transporting iron ore from Surjagarh mines in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district in December 2016.

Gadling is also accused in the Bhima Koregaon–Elgar Parishad Maoist links and criminal conspiracy case along with 14 other activists and academics, and is charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA).

Gadling was arrested on January 30, 2019, and has been incarcerated for over four years. He is currently lodged in the Taloja Central Jail, awaiting trial.

On January 31 this year, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court upheld the Order of the sessions court, Gadchiroli, dated March 28, and rejected Gadling’s regular bail.

According to the high court, the setting ablaze of trucks constituted a ‘terrorist act’ under Section 15 of the UAPA; and electronic devices seized in the Bhima Koregaon case showed that Gadling was part of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and was involved in the Surjagarh arson case.

During the previous hearing, on October 10, the division Bench comprising Justices Bose and Bela M. Trivedi, had issued a notice to the respondent, the Maharashtra government.

Today, the counsel representing the state government requested a period of two weeks to file a counter-affidavit. According to the counsel, the records received by the respondents are “voluminous” and in Marathi and they need time to process them.

Justice Bose remarked that all the records in the bail pleas of the accused persons in the Bhima Koregaon case before the Supreme Court are of the “same” description.

Senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for Gadling, submitted that the records in the Bhima Koregaon matter are, in fact, “voluminous” but the same epithet could not be employed in the arson case before the Bench.

Grover reiterated that alleged evidence recovered from Gadling in the Bhima Koregaon case has been used in the present arson case.

On the nature of the allegations against Gadling in the arson case, Grover submitted that Gadling is charged with the offence of “conspiracy”.

All the other accused persons, who are allegedly directly connected in the arson case, are on bail, Grover added.

Observing that appeals in the Bhima Koregaon are due before the court in the coming weeks, the Bench decided to allow the adjournment sought by the Maharashtra government.

The Bench directed the state government to file a counter-affidavit within one week and posted the matter for hearing in two weeks.

The Leaflet