An officer from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had tested positive for COVID-19, the agency told the NIA’s special court on April 25, the day it was opposing the bail application of civil rights activist Anand Teltumbde.
According to The Wire, an assistant sub-inspector had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. However, the NIA court still sent Teltumbde to judicial custody and he was moved to Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai. Both he and activist Gautam Navlakha had been arrested by the NIA on April 14 in connection with the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case.
The 70-year-old had been kept in the NIA office for eleven days before the hearing and the agency has reportedly claimed that he had not come in contact with the infected officer. It has said that he had been tested after the officer’s condition was known and the results of the test were negative.
However, according to the report, Teltumbde’s lawyers have said that the NIA officer’s condition came to light after his wife, Rama, chanced upon it while visiting to hand over his clothes.
“When Rama went to the NIA office in the morning, she heard some officers speak about their colleague having testing positive. She inquired and found out that the officer was reporting to work every day. Rama immediately informed us,” one of the lawyers reportedly said. According to the lawyer, the court was informed of the officer’s condition only after the lawyers raised objections.
Teltumbde’s lawyers and family have expressed concern for his health, he has health issues which include a respiratory condition. His lawyer told the news portal that as per protocol, he should have been quarantined instead of moving “him to the jail which is already overcrowded”.
It has been close to two years that Teltumbde and Navlkaha had been booked in the case and after petitioning courts at all levels, both surrendered before NIA’s offices.
The Supreme Court on March 17 this year rejected their pre-arrest bail pleas and directed them to surrender before the investigating agency. Teltumbde, Navlakha and nine other civil liberties activists have been booked under the stringent provisions of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for having alleged Maoist links and conspiring to assassinate the prime minister.
Both have stoutly denied all charges against them. The apex court while rejecting Teltumbde and Navlakha's bail pleas on March 17, directed them to surrender before the prosecuting agency within a period of three weeks. The duo later sought extension of the time. On April 9, the Supreme Court extended the time by one week by way of last chance.
The activists were booked initially by Pune Police following violence that erupted at Koregaon-Bhima. The police accused the activists of making inflammatory speeches and provocative statements at the Elgar Parishad meet held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which triggered violence the next day.
The police also alleged that these activists were active members of banned Maoist groups. The case was later transferred to NIA. Teltumbde and Navlakha were given interim protection by the Bombay High Court while their pre-arrest bail pleas were being heard. After the high court rejected their applications, the duo had approached the Supreme Court.
With PTI Inputs