After activist-lawyers Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira were released from Navi Mumbai's Taloja Jail on Saturday, 5 August, following their bail approval by the Supreme Court on 28 July, the People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) raised concerns over what it calls "onerous bail conditions" imposed on the duo.
On Saturday, the PUDR issued a statement welcoming the release of Gonsalves and Ferreira, who were among 16 persons arrested in connection with the Elgar Parishad case, while expressing its protest against the bail conditions set by the top court.
The statement highlighted that the Supreme Court granted bail to the duo based on two primary factors – the prolonged incarceration of the accused without trial commencement and the National Investigation Agency's (NIA) failure to justify the allegations against them.
However, the court's bail conditions are "unfair and unjust," the statement said, as they come at the cost of their "movement and privacy."
'Vague', 'Arbitrary': PUDR on NIA Court's Conditions
Notable among the conditions is the requirement for each of the accused to use a designated mobile phone with continuous location tracking enabled, effectively subjecting them to constant surveillance.
This surveillance, the PUDR argues, compromises their freedom of movement and privacy, thus undermining the concept of bail as a form of "licensed liberty."
The top court, in its order, also allowed a special NIA court to establish additional conditions as it "deems fit and proper."
The PUDR stated that on 31 July, the special NIA court had imposed further conditions, prohibiting Gonsalves and Ferreira from "communicating with the co-accused or any other person involved in similar activities," making any form of call to them, tampering with prosecution witnesses, attempting to abscond, or hosting gatherings of visitors at their residences.
The PUDR, in its statement, questioned the "vagueness and arbitrariness" of these conditions, which employ ambiguous terms such as "similar activities," "any people," and "gatherings of people."
Citing a previous Supreme Court case (Mohd. Zubair v. NCT of Delhi), the PUDR asserted that bail conditions "must serve investigative interests, be proportionate, and uphold the accused's right to a fair trial." It argued that the "broad and sweeping conditions" set forth by the special NIA court fall short of these principles.