Human Rights Defenders, Professor Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha and Vernon Gonsalves have reportedly approached a special court seeking interim bail on grounds of their age and vulnerability to Covid-19.
Professor Teltumbde turned 71 on July 15, 2021. Senior activist and journalist Navlakha is 69 years old and Gonsalves is 64 years old. According to The Indian Express, the three men sent their applications from Taloja Central Jail where they are currently lodged, and sought to be released temporarily after the jail administration directed all inmates above the age of 60 to apply for interim bail due to the pandemic. Special Judge Dinesh E Kothalikar has directed the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to file its reply to their pleas.
On July 12, Special Judge Dinesh Kothalikar had rejected Teltumbde’s bail application on grounds that the available documents, including the exchange of emails and the statements of the witnesses relied upon by the prosecution, revealed that the accusations against him are not “inherently improbable or wholly unbelievable”.
The court relied heavily on the documents and letters recovered from Rona Wilson’s laptop to accept the prosecution’s argument that prima facie Professor Teltumbde was an active member of the banned CPI (Maoist) organisation. It is noteworthy, that Arsenal, an American Consultancy firm had released a report stating that the alleged incriminating material found on Rona Wilson and most recently co-accused Surendra Gadling’s laptop, was planted.
The Bombay High Court is currently seized with the petitions of researcher Rona Wilson and Professor Shoma Sen, also accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, challenging the sanction to prosecute them under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. Navlakha suffered the same setback, when the Supreme Court in May this year, dismissed his plea for default bail.
CJP has written to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Shri Uddhav Thackeray, on two occasions urging him to recommend the release of all 14 accused in the Bhima Koregaon case to the High-Power Committee. CJP has cited the unhygienic, inadequate infrastructure in jails that threatens the health of all human rights defenders.