Maharashtra govt. says pleas by Bhima Koregaon accused are ‘fallacious’

Accused have challenged two orders passed by the Sessions Court

The Maharashtra government on Thursday told the Bombay High Court that the plea challenging the order of extending the period of filing a chargesheet in the Bhima Koregaon violence case by the Sessions Court is “fallacious”.

Advocate General (A-G) Ashutosh Kumbhakoni was arguing before a Division Bench of Justice S.S. Shinde and N.J. Jamadar. The court was hearing a petition filed by Sudha Bharadwaj along with other accused in the case alleging that the Pune Sessions Court Judge K.D. Wadane was not authorised to take cognisance of the supplementary chargesheet and to grant an extension to Pune Police for filing the chargesheet.

Mr. Kumbhakoni pointed out that on May 17, 2018, provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) were added to the case, and on January 24, 2020, the Centre passed an order to transfer the probe to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

He said the petitioners’ contention is that the special NIA court comes into the picture after the UAPA is added. But just because a Special Court has been constituted does not mean the NIA court will come into the picture in the case, he added.

The Bench asked: Special Courts have been constituted, then why not take the case before the Special Courts? The A-G replied that the Special Courts come into the picture only after the NIA comes into the picture. He also said the special NIA court had no jurisdiction to try and decide any pre-trial proceedings, and under the UAPA, the prosecution has no option but to go to the Sessions Court.

The arguments will continue on July 23.

In the last hearing, advocate Yug Chaudhry representing Ms. Bharadwaj, who is lodged at the Byculla jail, had pointed out that Mr. Wadane passed two significant orders, the first of which was on November 26, 2018, when he granted an extension of 180 days’ time period to the Pune police for filing the chargesheet in the case, as opposed to the mandated 90 days according to the Code of Criminal Procedure. He said that on December 21, 2019, Mr. Wadane had received the chargesheet, taken cognisance of it, and issued processes.

Mr. Chaudhry also said that Mr. Wadane had acted outside of his jurisdiction and was not authorised to do so.

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