Even as the Supreme Court granted bail on Friday, 28 July, to two accused in the Elgar Parishad case, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, the families of the other accused in the same case said that the verdict inspired some hope “but should not be celebrated too much.” Moreover, some even questioned the “insensitive bail conditions.”
“The fact is that it took five years for them to get a bail. It’s clear that they should have gotten bail much earlier, within ten days of their arrest. In fact, they shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place,” said Jenny Rowena, the wife of jailed Delhi University professor Hany Babu.
“We have been brought to such a situation that we are celebrating delayed bail verdicts like these. There is nothing to celebrate in this. We should continue to question the injustice that others are still facing,” Rowena told The Quint.
The accused in the case are charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for alleged membership of the banned CPI (Maoist) and raising funds for terror activities among others.
On Friday, a bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Sudhanshu Dhulia, while granting them bail said that “allegations against them no doubt are serious, but for that reason alone bail cannot be denied to them.”
"Bail Conditions Too Stringent": Varavara Rao's Nephew
Among those who previously received bail in the case is octogenarian poet Varavara Rao who was granted bail on medical grounds after his health deteriorated so significantly that his kin feared further incarceration would "ring the death knell" for him.
But his nephew N Venugopal said the bail conditions for all the accused in the case are “too insensitive.”
“Coming out of jail is a happy occasion, any day. But the bail conditions are so stringent and insensitive. For example, this clause to have everyone’s location be restricted to Maharashtra is unfair to those who are from other cities. Besides two accused in the case, all others are anyway non-Maharashtra people,” Venugopal told The Quint.
“This has become such an issue his (Varavara Rao's) wife because she doesn’t know Marathi or English or Hindi. She only knows Telugu and so struggles a lot being restricted to Maharashtra,” Venugopal added.
Ferreira and Gonsalves’ bail conditions say that they shall not leave Maharashtra without obtaining the trial court’s permission, surrender their passports to NIA and provide their addresses and mobile phone numbers to the Investigating Officer (IO).
Further, they will have to retain only one mobile connection each, keep their phones charged and active all the time, keep location status of their mobile phones active 24 hours a day, and their phone shall be paired with NIA's IO to enable him to identify their exact location any time, reported Live Law.
“You can argue that you think that the accused are a flight risk and thus take their passports. But this sharing of location at all times seems like an infringement on their privacy. It’s not right. It is the SC’s verdict so everyone has to respect it, but it doesn’t follow the principles of natural justice,” Venugopal added.
"Patient and Hopeful": Gautam Navlakha's Partner
But this Supreme Court order also brings hope, friends and family of the accused say.
"The order is very hopeful. It is a moment of great relief for all of us. We have been in this for the past five years too, I'm 72 and Gautam is 71. The lives of all the accused in this case, as well as their loved ones outside, have been turned upside down. But we are patient and we are hopeful,” Sahba Husain, Gautam Navlakha’s partner, told The Quint.
Gautam Navlakha, a human rights activist and journalist, was placed under house arrest, after the apex court took note of his crumbling health in November 2022. Prior to this, the septuagenarian was lodged in Taloja Central Prison. Conditions of his house arrest include constant surveillance and no permission to leave Bombay or even the accommodation (except for walks, along with police personnel).
Some of the accused in the case besides Gonsalves, Ferriera, Rao and Navlakha, are Sudha Bharadwaj, Anand Teltumbde, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut.
Most of the Bhima Koregaon 16 are still incarcerated. Father Stan Swamy passed away as an incarcerated under-trial on 5 July 2021. His friend, Father Joseph Xavier, tells The Quint that he would have been very happy and proud to hear of this bail order, had he been alive.
"What happened to him ( Father Stan Swamy) shouldn’t happen to others. We want to see everyone out on bail. Just on suspicion, you can’t keep somebody behind bars for so long. All of us, families of the accused, will continue to fight for them till the last one of us is out."Fr Joseph Xavier
Father Swamy's death came a day before his bail hearing, and only a few weeks after he had told a court that his “body functions” had undergone steady decline. He was eighty-four years old at the time of his death, and he had said, back then, that all he wanted was to go home.