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Bhima Koregaon: Bombay HC Issues Notice After Petition Flags Withholding of Letters by Teltumbde and Gonsalves

The petitioners alleged that the prison authorities were withholding letters written by Anand Teltumbde and Vernon Gonsalves, who are currently in prison pending trial for various offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UAPA].
Bombay HC

Image credit: The Leaflet

The Bombay High Court Saturday issued a notice to the Maharashtra Government, the National Investigation Agency(NIA), and the jail superintendent on a petition filed by Rama Anand Teltumbde and Susan Abraham Gonsalves seeking a direction from the court to the Superintendent of Taloja Prison to allow letter communication between the petitioners and their respective jailed husbands.

The matter was heard by a bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar.

Advocate R. Satyanarayanan appeared for the petitioners while Advocate KV Saste appeared for the State of Maharashtra. Advocate Sandesh Patil appeared for the NIA.

The petitioners alleged that the prison authorities were withholding letters written by Anand Teltumbde and Vernon Gonsalves, who are currently in prison pending trial for various offences under the Indian Penal Code(IPC) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UAPA].

According to petitioners, Teltumbde had written an article titled “Economic goals cannot disavow Constitutional vision”, which was published in the news magazine Caravan. Soon after this, the jail authorities banned not only Teltumbde, but all the Bhima Koregoan undertrials from sending or receiving letters.

As per the petition, following the publication of the article, the jail authorities had issued a “Samaj Patra” (which is believed to be a show-cause notice) to Anand Teltumbde. Teltumbde wrote a pointwise reply to the “Samaj Patra.” However, despite repeated requests, Teltumbde’s family wasn’t given copies of the “Samaj Patra” or the reply he wrote. Teltumbde’s wife had filed an RTI seeking copies of the same and is yet to receive a response.

During the hearings, Satyanarayanan submitted: “Letters written by inmates are not posted or delivered. Letters written in March are reaching the family in the month of May.”

The petition asked for the High Court to direct the prison authorities to allow the undertrials to send and receive letters. It also sought an inquiry against the Superintendent of Taloja prison for withholding letters on the grounds that it is contrary to prison rules and established law.

The matter will be next heard on July 14.

Teltumbde and Gorsalves are accused in the Bhima Koregoan case. The case against them and other activists centres around Elgaar Parishad, an event held on December 31, 2017, in Bhima-Koregaon, Pune, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the victory of a largely Dalit-staffed British army over the upper-caste Peshwa army and the violence and arson that followed the event.

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