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Bhima-Koregaon Case: SC Upholds Bombay HC Bail Order for Teltumbde, Dismisses NIA Plea

CJI DY Chandrachud asked what is the role attributable to the former IIT professor.
Bhima-Koregaon Case: SC Upholds Bombay HC Bail Order for Teltumbde, Dismisses NIA Plea

Anand Teltumbde. Image Courtesy:  National Herald

Former Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) professor Anand Teltumbde will be the third Bhima-Koregaon case co-accused to get bail after Varavara Rao and Sudha Bharadwaj when the Supreme Court (SC) dismissed the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) special leave petition (SLP) challenging the Bombay High Court (HC) bail order on Friday.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli said that it will not interfere with the HC order. “We will not interfere. Dismissed,” the court said adding that the lower court’s observations in the bail order will not weigh during the trial.

An HC Division Bench of Justices AS Gadkari and Milind Jadhav had made a prima facie observation in its bail order that there was no evidence for the offence of terrorist activity against Teltumbde, LiveLaw reported.

The Dalit scholar was arrested by the NIA on April 14, 2020, after he surrendered before the agency following an SC order in connection with the alleged Maoist connections in the Bhima-Koregaon case.

According to the NIA, Teltumbde was one of the conveners of the December 31, 2017, Elgar Parishad event, where he made provocative speeches, as per the chargesheet, leading to riots on January 1, 2018. 

The scholar had moved the HC last September after the Special Court under the NIA Act had rejected his bail holding that he was a member of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), Bar and Bench reported.

According to the chargesheet, Teltumbde allegedly conspired to further the ideology of CPI(Maoist) and overthrow the government.

“In this matter, there are charges under as many as eight Sections of the UAPA ... The High Court erred in saying that the material that the prosecution has shown does not inspire confidence qua Sections 15, 18 and 20,” additional solicitor general (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati, who appeared for the NIA, submitted and cited several documents ‘revealing’ Teltumbde’s “deep involvement” with CPI(M).

However, Teltumbde’s counsel and senior advocate Kapil Sibal informed the apex court that none of those documents were recovered from Teltumbde. The emails purportedly sent by Teltumbde were allegedly recovered from the computer of co-accused Rona Wilson, he said.

Sibal also said that Teltumbde was estranged from his brother Milind Teltumbde, a Maoist leader who was killed in encounter with security forces last year. “I have not met him for last 30 years,” Sibal said. The NIA’s case linking Milind to Anand is based on a hearsay evidence which is given in a statement recorded under Section 161 of the CrPC, which is inadmissible in evidence, he added.

“The High Court says there is no document to connect me with terrorist activity. He was not even at the Elgar Parishad event. They have not shown anything to show that he was there,” Sibal argued.

The ASG also referred to an undated letter of the central committee of the banned organisation which allegedly refers to Teltumbde as “Dear Comrade Anand”. She also read a letter allegedly written by an active member of the organisation stating that “Comrade Teltumbde” made pertinent suggestions to enhance student participation in the programme commemorating 50 years of the Naxalbari movement.

Bhati also cited a letter allegedly written to Teltumbde recovered from Wilson’s laptop. The letter allegedly mentions Teltumbde’s visit to Paris for Human Rights Convention on April 9 and 10, 2018, and lectures on Dalit issues in order to give traction to domestic chaos. Bhati informed the court that most of these documents were encrypted and had PGP keys.

Sibal contended that the institute in Paris has already written to the NIA clarifying that the institution had borne the expenses and claimed that was for “academic work”.

The NIA had alleged that Teltumbde travelled abroad to share banned literature through lectures. “Goa Institute of Management gave us details of the travel of the accused ... These are not official travels.”

Bhati argued that Teltumbde played an active role and received funds for carrying out activities of the banned organisation. “Under the UAPA, it is not necessary terrorist act is to be carried out. There is a preparatory act carried out for proscribed organisation.”

CJI Chandrachud asked the agency as to what is the role attributable to Teltumbde. “What is the specific role to bring UAPA sections into action? The IIT Madras event you alleged he is mobilising Dalit mobilisation. Is Dalit mobilisation preparatory act to proscribed activity?”

Bhati responded that he is a professor and is free to give lectures but since he has “links with a banned organisation and has even received funds, they cannot merely rely on the front face”.

Asserting that what goes on backdoors is also important, the ASG cited some documents alleging Teltumbde wanted all Dalits to join the organisation.

Sibal, however, asserted that none of the documents were recovered from Teltumbde. “These have no relation to any provisions of the UAPA, and this is written by someone else, not me. The threshold under the Act is very high,” he said.

In its SLP, the NIA had stated that the observations made in the HC order were contrary to what the SC had said in the past and that observations in the bail order “would influence the trial and investigation”.

If the accused is granted bail, the NIA said that “the efforts of the investigating agency … which is already undergoing great difficulty in unearthing the evidence against” Teltumbde “would suffer a fatal blow” and that he “upon being freed from the judicial custody would ensure that no evidence whatsoever could surface”, according to The Indian Express.

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