A special NIA court in Mumbai on Tuesday denied bail to poet P Varavara Rao and retired professor Shoma Sen, who are accused in the Bhima Koregaon- Elgar Parishad case. A day earlier, the court had heard the arguments on their bail plea. Basically, they had sought temporary bail on health grounds in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak. They also sought access to family members and lawyers over the phone after the prison authorities banned visits to the jail for over a week. On the other hand, the NIA opposed the bail application, contending that no medical certificate had been produced. Currently, Rao and Sen are lodged in Taloja jail and Byculla jail respectively.
Special NIA court in Mumbai has rejected bail pleas of Varavara Rao and Shoma Sen, both accused in Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case. They had filed pleas for interim bail in wake of #COVID19 pandemic.— ANI (@ANI) March 31, 2020
Violence had erupted at Koregaon-Bhima village in Pune district on January 1, 2018, where supporters had gathered to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. This resulted in the death of one person and leaving several injured. Subsequently, the Pune police arrested activists such as Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, and Vernon Gonsalves, Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale and P Varavara Rao for allegedly inciting the Bhima Koregoan violence through their speech at the Elgar Parishad meeting on December 31, 2017.
The draft charges filed by the police include 'conspiracy to assassinate PM Narendra Modi', 'overthrow the government', 'waging war against the Government of India' under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Also, it has been alleged that some of the arrested individuals are active members of the banned CPI (Maoists) party. In January 2020, the case was transferred to the NIA.
On March 27, the Maharashtra government decided to release up to 11,000 prisoners on emergency parole amid the novel coronavirus crisis. As per a press note, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh observed that 60,000 people were languishing in 45 prisons across the state. According to him, the prisoners living in congested space could serve as a flashpoint for the spread of COVID-19.
The prisoners to be released will comprise of undertrials and convicts sentenced to less than 7 years in jail. They will be released on emergency parole for an initial period of 45 days. However, the prisoners will be subjected to a thorough health check-up before their release and will be issued passes to go back to their native places.