Arun Ferreira, a human rights activist and lawyer, after he was arrested by the Pune police in connection with Bhima Koregaon violence case. (Source: PTI) 

Koregaon-Bhima Case: Supreme Court Stays Order Refusing Police Time To File Chargesheet

The Supreme Court stayed the Bombay High Court’s order refusing extension of time to the state police for filing a chargesheet in the Koregaon-Bhima violence case.

Taking note of the appeal of the Maharashtra government, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi stayed the high court order and issued notice to rights activists on the plea. Recently, the Bombay High Court had set aside the lower court’s order allowing extension of time to police to file its probe report against the rights activists in the violence case.

Earlier, the apex court had refused to interfere with the arrest of five rights activists by the Maharashtra Police in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima violence case and declined to appoint a Special Investigation Team for probe into their arrest.

The Pune Police had arrested lawyer Surendra Gadling, Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen, Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale, activist Mahesh Raut and Kerala native Rona Wilson in June for their alleged links with Maoists under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The arrests had followed raids at their residences and offices in connection with the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on Dec. 31 last year, which, the police had claimed, had led to violence at Bhima Koregaon the next day.

Maharashtra government had on Oct. 25 moved the apex court challenging the Bombay High Court order by which the extension of time granted to state police to conclude the probe was set aside.

The bench had considered the submissions of lawyer Nishant Katneshwar, appearing for the Maharashtra government, that the appeal needed to be heard on an urgent basis, in the previous hearing.

The lawyer had said if the high court order isn't stayed then accused in the violence case would become entitled for grant of statutory bail for want of non-filing of chargesheet within the stipulated period.

Under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, a chargesheet must be filed within 90 days of arrest. However, the prosecutor can file a report before the trial court, explaining the reasons for the delay, and seek more time. If satisfied, the court can extend the time by 90 days.

In the present case, the Pune sessions court had granted the police the additional 90 days, following an application from the investigating officer and written submissions by an assistant commissioner of police.

Gadling had challenged this, saying the report and the submissions came from the police, not the prosecutor. Under the Act, the report should be filed by the prosecutor, he said.

The petition filed in the top court by the state government said the investigating officer had filed an application in the trial court under his signature giving reasons for extension of time on Aug. 30, 2018. It had also said that the high court should not have been carried away by the fact of mentioning of names of the parties in detail.

Also read: Bhima-Koregaon Case: Supreme Court Extends House Arrest Of Human Rights Activists