Elgar Parishad Case: HC Grants Bail, But Anand Teltumbde Cannot Walk out Yet
Scholar-activist Anand Teltumbde. Image Courtesy: Wikipedia
The Bombay High Court on Friday granted bail to scholar-activist Anand Teltumbde, arrested in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, noting that prima facie the only case made out against him relates to alleged association with a terror outfit and support given to it, for which the maximum punishment is 10 years in jail.
A division bench of Justices A S Gadkari and M N Jadhav said Teltumbde has already spent more than two years in jail.
The high court, however, stayed its order for a week so that the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the prosecuting agency in the case, can approach the Supreme Court. This means that Teltumbde will not be able to walk out of jail till then.
Teltumbde, 73, has been lodged at the Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai since his arrest in the case in April 2020.
The high court granted bail to him on a surety of Rs one lakh. His counsel Mihir Desai sought the court to permit cash bail, which the court allowed.
The NIA then requested the court to stay its order for one week so that it can appeal in the Supreme Court. The bench accepted this and stayed its order for a week.
The bench, while pronouncing its order, said prima facie only offences under section 38 (association with a terrorist organisation) and 39 (support given to a terrorist organisation) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) are made out against Teltumbde by the NIA.
"The maximum punishment in those offences is 10 years of imprisonment, and the applicant (Teltumbde) has already been incarcerated for more than two years in prison," the court.
Teltumbde had moved the high court last year after a special court refused to grant him bail.
In his plea, Teltumbde had claimed that he was never present at the December 31, 2017 Elgar Parishad event held in Pune city nor made any provocative speeches.
The prosecution's case is that provocative and inflammatory speeches were made at the event that was allegedly backed by the banned terror outfit CPI (Maoist), which later led to violence at Koregaon Bhima village near Pune.
Of the 16 accused arrested in the case, Teltumbde is the third accused in the case to be granted bail. Poet Varavara Rao is out on medical bail and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj is out on regular bail.
The Supreme Court had earlier this month permitted another accused in the case, activist Gautam Navlakha, to be placed under house arrest owing to his ill health. Navlakha, however, is still in prison as his release formalities are not yet complete.
Desai, appearing for Teltumbde, had argued that no terror acts can be attributed to him even going by the charge sheet and hence there can be no bar to releasing him on bail under the UAPA.
But the NIA had opposed the bail plea and claimed that Teltumbde was secretly in touch with his brother Milind Teltumbde, who was an alleged Maoist leader killed last November in an encounter with security forces in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli district.
The NIA's claim is that Anand Teltumbde was one of the main conveners of the Elgar Parishad meeting and that he was an active member of several frontal organisations of the CPI (Maoist).
Desai had argued that Teltumbde was at best a co-invitee, but had neither attended the meeting in Pune nor given any speeches.
The alleged frontal bodies are not banned under any law, so merely branding them 'frontal' has little meaning, he had submitted to the high court.
The accused in the case have been charged for waging a war against the nation, being active members of the banned terror outfit CPI (Maoist), criminal conspiracy and indulging in acts with an intent to strike terror in the minds of people using explosive substances.
In its draft charges, the NIA sought to charge the accused under various provisions of the UAPA and the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The court is yet to frame charges in the case, only after which trial would commence.
The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the Elgar Parishad conclave held at Shaniwarwada in Pune, which the police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon Bhima war memorial. The Pune Police, which probed the case before it was transferred to the NIA, claimed the conclave was backed by Maoists.
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