Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Wednesday granted bail by default to lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj, one of the accused in the 2018 Koregaon-Bhima and Elgar Parishad caste violence case.
A division bench comprising Justice S.S. Shinde and Justice N.J. Jamadar has directed that Bharadwaj should be produced before the Special NIA Court next Wednesday which will impose the bail conditions and finalise her release.
The National Investigation Agency, which had opposed her bail plea, has sought two weeks’ time stay on the order, hinting it may challenge the high court decision.
Bharadwaj becomes the first accused to get a default bail. Earlier some accused like P. Varavara Rao were granted bail on medical grounds while one accused Fr. Stan Lourduswamy passed away in custody in July after a prolonged illness.
Hailing from Chhattisgarh, Bharadwaj, 60, has been in jail since August 2018 after her arrest from New Delhi by the Pune Police which was probing the twin case.
A lawyer-activist and working for tribal rights, Bharadwaj was teaching at the National Law University when she was nabbed.
A few months ago, through her lawyer Yug Chaudhry, Bharadwaj filed a plea for bail, contending that after a lapse of 90 days of detention, there was no valid or lawful order extending the time for filing of the charge sheet and hence she was entitled to a default bail.
Opposing the plea, the Maharashtra government argued that till the investigations were not assigned to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the proceedings on the probe could continue before the regular courts.
The NIA also contended that there was a judgement of the Bombay High Court that the NIA Court comes into the picture only after the central agency takes over the case probe.
However, the division bench has declined the applications of eight other co-accused in the same case including Dr. P.Varavara Rao, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Advocate Surendra Gadling, Prof. Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves.
All the accused were arrested from different parts of India in June-August 2018 in swoops by the Pune Police and later the sensational case was taken over by the NIA in January 2020.