Lawyer and activist Sudha Bharadwaj was granted default bail by the Bombay High Court on Wednesday, December 1, in the Elgar Parishad case. A bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar directed that Bharadwaj be produced before the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in the city, that will decide the conditions to be imposed on her bail and finalise her release from the Byculla women's prison. The court, however, rejected the default bail pleas filed by co-accused Sudhir Dhawale and seven others, which included Rona Wilson, P Varavara Rao and Arun Ferreira among others.
Sudha Bharadwaj was arrested in August 2018 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the violence that broke out in Bhima-Koregaon in December 2017. In August this year, the High Court had reserved its judgement on the default bail plea. An individual can file for default bail after the expiry of 90 days from the date of arrest.
Sudha Bharadwaj has been in custody as an undertrial since her arrest in 2018. Bharadwaj's counsel and senior advocate Yug Chaudhry earlier told the High Court that judge KD Vadane, who had taken cognisance of the Pune police's charge sheet and remanded Bharadwaj and the seven other accused persons to custody, was an additional sessions judge. Chaudhry had earlier said that Vadane signed his court orders as a special judge, even though he was not a designated special judge.
Sudha had submitted RTI (Right to Information) replies from the High Court to demonstrate that judge Vadane was not a designated special judge, as was necessary to adjudicate offences under UAPA.
Opposing her plea at the time, the Maharashtra government had told the High Court in August that a sessions court had the power to take cognisance of the charge sheet filed in the case in 2019, since the National Investigation Agency (NIA) was then yet to take over the investigation into the case. The NIA took over the case in January 2020.
The Elgar Parishad case pertains to alleged inflammatory speeches made at a conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Bhima-Koregaon war memorial located on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city. The police had claimed the conclave was organised by people with alleged Maoist links.