SC dismisses NIA appeal against default bail to Sudha Bharadwaj Court finds no reason to interfere with Bombay HC order
07, Dec 2021 | CJP Team
In a shot in the arm for the human rights movement in India, activist Sudha Bharadwaj who had been implicated in the Bhima Koregaon case by a vindictive regime, will now walk free after terms of her bail are finalised on December 8. This was made possible by the Supreme Court when it dismissed a plea by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) against the default bail granted to Bharadwaj on December 1, by the Bombay High Court.
A Supreme Court Bench comprising Justice UU Lalit, Justice Ravindra Bhat and Justice Bela Trivedi was hearing a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the NIA challenging the default bail granted to Bharadwaj. The SC observed that it had no reason to interfere with the Bombay HC’s order.
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On December 1, the Bombay High Court had ruled that the Additional Sessions Court that extended time for investigation beyond the mandated 90-day period, was not competent to do so as it had not been notified as a Special Court under the NIA Act.
Bharadwaj had sought default bail under section 167 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code. The section deals with the jurisdiction of a judge who is either trying the case or authorising detention of the accused. Bharadwaj, through her counsel Advocate Yug Chaudhry, sought for the setting aside of an order passed by Additional Sessions Judge KD Vadane on the grounds that Vadane had not been appointed as a special judge under the NIA Act. It was Judge Vadane’s 2018 order that extended the time for filing a chargesheet. A chargesheet needs to be filed within 90 days of detention, but because of the impugned order Bharadwaj was forced to remain behind bars despite the lapse of the deadline. The trial court also took cognisance of an 1800-page supplementary chargesheet in February 2019, which the petitioners contend should not have been permitted given the previous argument related to the original chargesheet.
After the Bombay HC accepted that the Additional Sessions Court was not competent to issue the extension order, Sudha Bharadwaj was granted default bail, the terms of which are to be decided on December 8. After this Bharadwaj, who has been behind bars ever since he was arrested on August 28, 2018, will walk out of the Byculla Women’s Jail where she has been lodged all this while.
Who is Sudha Bharadwaj?
Sudha Bharadwaj has been associated with the trade union movement in Chhattisgarh for more than 25 years, and she is also the general secretary of the Chhattisgarh unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), and a member of Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS).
She has been accused of criminal conspiracy, sedition under the Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act charges of funding a terrorist activity, conspiracy, being a member of terrorist gang or organisation, and supporting a terrorist organisation. The regime, frustrated at their inability to prevent her from helping workers and Adivasis, used these ridiculous charges to implicate her in the Bhima Koregaon case along with several other activists and human rights defenders, who weren’t even present at the Elgar Parishad meeting.
Even the manner in which she was arrested was replete with several violations of set procedure.
*This report will be updated when the order copy becomes available.
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