Elgar Parishad Case: Sudha Bharadwaj files Default Bail plea in Bombay High Court

Kriti Agrawal

Sudha Bharadwaj, a lawyer and activist who is currently being held in Mumbai’s Byculla Women’s Jail following her arrest in the Bhima Koregaon violence case in 2018, has petitioned the Bombay High Court for bail on the grounds that the chargesheet in the case against her was not filed within the statutory period of 90 days.

Bharadwaj has requested ‘default bail.’ Another accused in the case, Gautam Navlakha, had also requested similar relief, but it was denied by the High Court.

The accusation filed against Bharadwaj was that certain documents which was discovered in the investigation shows that she and the other defendants were active members of the outlawed organization CPI (Maoist).

Bharadwaj claimed in her bail application under Section 167(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) that the investigative agency failed to file its chargesheet within the 90-day time period stipulated by law.

The Pune Police submitted the chargesheet against Bharadwaj, but the inquiry was eventually taken over by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The case’s trial has yet to commence.

The bail plea was heard by Single Judge Bench of the Bombay High Court, presided over by Justice Sarang V Kotwal. When the case came up for hearing, Bharadwaj’s lawyer, Yug Chaudhry, told the Court that legal propriety states the bail plea should be heard by a Division Bench of the High Court.

Chaudhry said that, though the case had previously been investigated by the local police, now that the case is being probed by the NIA, the plea must be considered by a Division Bench under the structure provided by the NIA Act.

Agreeing to the same, Justice Kotwal pointed out that the NIA Act’s system, notably Section 21(2), mandates that appeals in matters involving NIA investigations be handled by a Bench of two High Court Justices.

Justice Kotwal then directed the registry to file the petition with a Division Bench of the High Court.

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