The Supreme Court on Friday, 28 July, granted bail to Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, both accused in the Bhima Koregaon case.
Both Gonsalves and Ferreria have been held in custody since August 2018 for their involvement in offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
What SC Said: "While forming our opinion, juxtaposing the appellants' case founded on Articles 14 and 21 with allegations [against them], and considering fact that almost 5 yrs have elapsed, we are satisfied they have made out case for bail," the top court said, while granting bail.
A division bench comprising Justices Aniruddha Bose and Sudhanshu Dhulia heard the bail applications of both Gonsalves and Ferreira and reserved the verdict in March this year.
Bail Conditions: The bail is subject to conditions set by the Special NIA Court:
One of the primary conditions is that they must not leave the State of Maharashtra until the trial is concluded
The individuals are required to surrender their passports and provide their addresses and mobile phone numbers to the NIA
They will be allowed only one mobile connection during this period
They must ensure that their mobile phones remain charged at all times, and the location feature should be active and shared with the NIA officer for live-tracking purposes
They must report to the investigating officer once a week.
Previously: In response to a December 2021 order in which the Bombay High Court denied default bail to both of them, while granting the same benefit to another co-accused, Sudha Bharadwaj, the two individuals had approached the Supreme Court.
Despite questioning this order through a subsequent review petition, the high court declined to provide them with any relief in May of the following year.
In the same case, two others, poet Varavara Rao and lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj – were granted bail earlier due to different reasons, while academic Gautam Navlakha was allowed house arrest on health grounds by a November 2022 Supreme Court order.
Another accused, Father Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist, passed away in July 2021, while awaiting bail on medical grounds.
The Case: Their arrests were made in connection with the 2018 caste-based violence that occurred at Bhima Koregaon in Pune, and they were also alleged to have links with the banned far-left group, Communist Party of India (Maoists).
Meanwhile, independent forensic experts have repeatedly raised concerns pertaining to alleged planting of evidence in connection with the matter.
The trial in the Bhima Koregaon case is yet to begin.