Elgar Parishad case: NIA 'strongly opposes' Sudha Bharadwaj's bail plea in Bombay HC
NIA told the court it has ample evidence to show that Bharadwaj had 'participated in anti-national activities', and, thus, does not deserve to be let out on bail
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) told Bombay High Court on Tuesday it "strongly opposed" the plea filed by activist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj seeking interim bail on health grounds. Bharadwaj is an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Koregaon Bhima case and has been lodged in Byculla women's prison since September 2018.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who appeared for NIA, told a bench led by Justice RD Dhanuka that the agency has ample evidence Bharadwaj had "participated in anti-national activities", and, thus, does not deserve to be let out on bail.
Bharadwaj approached HC seeking bail on health grounds after a special court in the city rejected the same on 29 May. She had applied for bail after a Byculla women's prison inmate tested positive for coronavirus earlier this year.
Last month, the NIA filed an affidavit in HC opposing her bail plea saying Bharadwaj (58) was taking "undue advantage" of the pandemic and her pleadings on her having comorbidities and, therefore, being a high risk candidate for COVID-19 were a mere "ruse" to seek bail.
On Tuesday, Bharadwaj's counsel Ragini Ahuja told the court Bharadwaj, a former professor of law, had been in jail for almost two years and she suffered from diabetes that put her at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19.
ASG Singh, however, said, "As far as her apprehensions on getting COVID-19 in jail are concerned, today any person can get infected with COVID-19 anywhere. One can get infected with COVID even without going out, or while in office, at home, or going anywhere else."
In fact in jail, the authorities are taking all safety precautions and implementing ICMR guidelines on COVID-19 prevention and treatment, he said. Singh said the state government had, earlier this month, submitted details of precautions and ICMR guidelines being implemented in prisons before a bench led by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta.
Besides, Bharadwaj would be provided adequate medical treatment in jail as and when required, Singh told HC. Last week, in compliance with a previous order of the court, Byculla prison authorities had submitted a report in HC saying that while Bharadwaj was diabetic and suffers from ischemic disease, a heart condition, her "vital parameters" were "normal".
The HC has now directed NIA to submit an additional affidavit detailing its contentions opposing Bharadwaj's bail plea.
The same bench also heard a plea filed by activists Vernon Gonsalves and Anand Teltumbde, Bharadwaj's co-accused in the case, seeking coronavirus tests as the two had been in close contact with another co-accused, poet-activist Varavara Rao, in Taloja prison.
Rao tested positive for coronavirus on 16 July and is admitted in Nanavati Hospital in the city. The petitioner's counsel, Mihir Desai, told the bench while some news reports said Gonsalves had tested negative for coronavirus, he had been unable to confirm the same.
Desai said Gonsalves' wife had been trying to contact him since 13 July but prison authorities were not permitting any telephone calls between her and her husband.
The state's counsel, Deepak Thakare, however, told the court Gonsalves had undergone a swab test in jail and had tested negative for coronavirus. Thakare also said he will ask Taloja jail authorities to permit Gonsalves to contact his wife through video-conferencing.
He said he will inform the court of Teltumbde's health by 31 July, the next date of hearing. Bharadwaj's bail plea will be heard on 4 August.
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