A Writ Petition has been filed before the High Court of Maharashtra at Bombay, challenging the transfer of the investigation for Bhima Koregaon and Elgar Parishad cases, to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The Petitioners in the writ are Advocate Surendra Gadling, prominent lawyer who is famous for his court craft and immense knowledge of criminal law, and Sudhir Dhawale, a freelance journalist and anti-caste activist. Both of them are presently lodged in the Taloja Central jail for their alleged involvement in the case.
The case that was initially being investigated by the Pune Police was transferred to the NIA, after Pune Police had already submitted the chargesheet. This was done through orders that were passed by the Under- Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Home Affairs in New Delhi. The Petition particularly draws attention to the possibility of political motivation behind the transfer of the case. It states that the BJP Government in the Centre passed these orders for transfer immediately after BJP lost the elections in Maharashtra. Therefore, the petition alleges malafide intentions behind the transfer of the case to the NIA.
The main ground for the challenge was that the transfer is in violation of the NIA Act, 2008. It argues that there is no provision that empowers the Central Government to transfer the investigation after the investigation is completed and the trial has begun. The petition contends that there have been no apparent compelling circumstances that necessitate such a transfer. Further, such a transfer to the NIA, after the completion of the investigation, means reinvestigation of the same case without any change in circumstances. This is legally impermissible.
It has been repeatedly alleged that the entire case is a conspiracy to intimidate dissidents of the central governments. Several arguments have also been raised against illegal search and seizure operations carried out without following due process but have formed the core investigation of the case. The said orders are arbitrary, discriminatory, unjust, and violative of Articles 14, 20 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Background to Elgar Parishad and Bhima Koregaon
The Bhima Koregaon case began after violence ensued against Dalits and when Hindutva fascists attacked the crowd which had gathered to celebrate the bicentenary anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle on January 1st, 2018. Meanwhile, the main accused Shambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, belonging to right-wing Hindutva organisations, are out on bail with relaxed bail conditions.
The Elgar Parishad event was a conference organised and attended by writers, lawyers, poets, and other thinkers on December 31, 2017. It is alleged that speeches delivered (including quotes by Betolt Brecht) during the event incited mob and caused the violence the next day on January 1, 2018.
Several prominent activists and lawyers including Vernon Gonsalves, Vara Vara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Arun Fareira were arrested for allegedly having links to the Maoist and the Naxalite movement. Recently, the anticipatory bails of journalist Gautam Navlakha and scholar Anand Teltumbe were dismissed and they were arrested for alleged involvement in the case. They have not been granted bail despite age and the Covid-19 breakout in jails.