The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought responses from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the State of Maharashtra on an application by activist Shoma Kanti Sen, an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, seeking interim bail on health grounds.
A bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and S V N Bhatti issued notices to the NIA and the state on an application by Sen, an English literature professor and women’s rights activist, who was arrested on June 6, 2018 in connection with the case.
The apex court was hearing Sen’s plea challenging the January 17 order of the Bombay High Court which had directed her to approach the special NIA court for bail.
The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the Elgar Parishad conclave held at Shaniwarwada in Pune city on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the city’s outskirts.
The Pune police had claimed the conclave was backed by Maoists.
During the hearing on Wednesday, senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for Sen, said the petitioner has filed an application seeking interim bail.
“I have filed an application seeking interim bail. The reason being her health is deteriorating,” he said, adding that Sen is 65-year-old and is in judicial custody for five years.
The bench asked Grover whether Sen’s case is similar to that of two other co-accused who were earlier granted bail by the apex court.
On July 28, a bench headed by Justice Bose had granted bail to activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in the case, noting that they have been in custody for five years.
Grover said she has been in judicial custody for five years and trial has not begun yet.
“Leave granted Let notice be issued on the application for interim bail,” the bench said and posted the matter for hearing on October 4.
The top court had said on Tuesday it will hear on September 21 a separate plea by activist Jyoti Jagtap, also arrested in the case, challenging an order of the high court denying her bail.
The high court had dealt with Sen’s plea challenging the November 2019 order passed by Additional Sessions Judge, Pune, rejecting her application for bail. She had claimed before the high court that she was falsely implicated in the case.
“As noted in order dated December 2, 2022, the investigation of present crime was subsequently transferred to the National Investigation Agency in the month of January, 2020 i.e. after passing of the impugned order,” the high court had noted in its January 17 order.
“It is to be noted here that, after the NIA filed supplementary charge sheet, in view of the substantive change in circumstance, the applicant (Sen) did not approach the trial court, at the first instance for appreciation of evidence by it,” it had said.
The high court had said it was necessary for the petitioner to approach the trial court afresh for seeking bail, so the trial court gets an opportunity to assess the entire material available on record against her. It had disposed of the bail application and granted her liberty to approach the trial court for relief.
The probe in the case, in which more than a dozen activists and academicians were named as accused, was transferred to the NIA.