Even though the Supreme Court granted bail to Bhima Koregaon accused Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira on Friday, 28 July, the two might not walk out of prison just yet.
Why the delay? A special NIA court, according to India Today, has imposed additional bail conditions on them. In doing so, the court has rejected a temporary cash bail plea filed by them and instead asked them to furnish a PR (personal recognisance) bond of Rs 50,000 each.
What this means: When it comes to a cash bail, the accused can the full amount of bail in cash. However, a PR bond is granted on the condition that the accused will appear at all future court dates. The amount in the bond doesn't have to be deposited initially but will be forfeited if the promise to appear is broken. The latter is a slightly more time-consuming process compared to a cash bail.
Both Gonsalves and Ferreira have been asked to attend the court proceedings unless exempted from personal appearance.
More conditions by NIA court: Besides the one mentioned above, here's a list of conditions imposed by the NIA court:
The accused shall not try to contact or communicate with the co-accused or any other person involved in similar activities
The accused shall not make any call either domestic or international to any person indulging in similar activities through any mode of communication
The accused shall not “tamper” with the prosecution witnesses, either personally or through any other person
The accused shall not "abscond or try to flee away" from justice
There shall not be any gathering of visitors where the two are to reside
SC Bail Conditions: On 28 July, the top court had set out its own set of bail conditions while adding that bail is subject to conditions set by the Special NIA Court. The Supreme Court's conditions included:
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
The case: Both Gonsalves and Ferreria have been in custody since August 2018 for their involvement in offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
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.
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.
(With inputs from India Today, LiveLaw)