Bhima Koregaon: Shoma Sen’s Bail Hearing in SC Adjourned Yet Again, Until January 10
Image Courtesy: twitter Amnesty India @AIIndia
The Supreme Court adjourned English professor Shoma Sen’s bail hearing in the Bhima Koregaon case until January 10, indicating that it would have to examine if any fresh allegations were levelled against her in the supplementary chargesheets.
A bench comprising Justices Aniruddha Bose and Augustine George Masih was hearing on Wednesday a special leave petition filed by Sen challenging an Order of the Bombay High Court, reported Live Law. The Bombay HC had asked Sen to approach the National Investigation Agency (NIA) special court for bail.
Sen is an accused in the Bhima Koregaon–Elgar Parishad Maoist links and criminal conspiracy case along with 14 other activists and academics, and is charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) (UAPA) Act.
Sen has been incarcerated as an undertrial since June 6, 2018, and is lodged at the Byculla jail in Mumbai.
At an earlier hearing, on November 23, senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing on behalf of Sen, had decried the repeated pleas of adjournment by the NIA in the matter.
Grover had stressed that Sen has been lodged in jail for five and a half years without trial and the bail hearing before the Supreme Court has been pending for five and a half months.
Grover, during the hearing on Wednesday, asserted that no new fresh allegations have been included in the supplementary chargesheets. “There are two supplementary chargesheets that do not relate to Sen. The original chargesheet, which contained the allegations against her, was examined by the trial court and the high court. Despite this, the high court has asked her to go back. But why should she go back? Why should she be prejudiced for five and a half years? It’s a travesty of justice,” he was quoted as saying in the Live Law report.
Grover referred to the top court's ruling in KA Najeeb, which upheld the right of a constitutional court to grant bail to people accused of offences under the UAPA, notwithstanding the bar contained in Section 43D (5), to protect the right of the accused to speedy trial which is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. He also specifically pointed to Sen's advanced age and ill health, as well as the period spent under incarceration.
In June 2018, Sen was arrested by the Pune police under provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the UAPA, along with human rights lawyer and Dalit rights activist Surendra Gadling, activist, actor, and publisher Sudhir Dhawale, activist Mahesh Raut, and activist and researcher Rona Wilson, for their alleged involvement in the Bhima Koregaon violence.
On January 17 this year, the Bombay High Court refused to examine the Order of the additional sessions judge, Pune that rejected Sen’s bail application and asked her to approach a special court under the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 for bail instead, on the ground that during the pendency of Sen’s application before the high court, the investigation had been transferred to the NIA.
The trial is yet to begin in the Bhima Koregaon case. The prosecution has filed a chargesheet exceeding 5,000 pages and intends to cross-examine at least 200 witnesses. Several of the accused persons, including Sen, have now spent almost five years in judicial custody without trial.
Five of the accused persons, trade unionist, activist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, activist, poet, writer and teacher P. Varavara Rao, scholar, writer, and civil rights activist Dr Anand Teltumbde, trade unionist and activist Vernon Gonsalves, lawyer and activist Arun Ferreira have managed to secure bail so far. Another co-accused, tribal rights activist and Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy, passed away due to Covid-19 in custody in June 2021 after incarceration for over seven months.
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