Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case: SC rejects NIA's plea challenging bail granted to Anand Teltumbde

NewsDrum Desk
25 Nov 2022

New Delhi, Nov 25 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed NIA's plea challenging the bail granted by the Bombay High Court to scholar-activist Anand Teltumbde in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case.

A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli refused to interfere with the high court's November 18 order granting bail to 73-year-old Teltumbde, who was arrested in the case in April 2020.

"We will not interfere," the bench said, while dismissing the plea filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) challenging the bail granted to him.

"The petition is dismissed. However, the observations contained in the impugned judgement of the high court shall not be treated as conclusive final findings at the trial," the apex court noted.

During the hearing, the bench asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the NIA, about the "specific role" attributable to Teltumbde in the case.

"What is the specific role attributable to him which will bring the provisions of the UAPA (Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act) into operation?" the bench asked.

Referring to the scheme of the Act, Bhati said it is not necessary that a terrorist act is required to be committed and that there are a number of activities in the nature of preparation, association in any manner, coordinating with these proscribed organisations which could be considered an act of terrorism.

"You say that he is involved in Dalit mobilisation. Is that really preparatory to a terrorist act?" the bench asked.

The ASG said he is an academician and a "front face".

"It is not the front face which is the problem. It is what is going in the garb of front face that really is the problem," said Bhati, who referred to several documents collected by the probe agency as well as statements of some witnesses recorded during the investigation.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Teltumbde, said the documents which the ASG referred to were not recovered from the activist.

"Wherever there is an issue of Dalit, he is out there as an academician to deal with it. If in the process there is some organisation which, according to them, is closely associated with some other organisation and I am speaking there as an academic, that does not make me (Teltumbde) a terrorist," Sibal argued.

The bench referred to certain provisions of the UAPA including section 15 which deals with terrorist act and section 16 that pertains to punishment for a terrorist act.

"There is no terrorist act," the bench observed. Bhati contended there are "organised activities" in the matter.

The bench observed basically, it boils down to certain allegations.

"One, that the name of the respondent (Teltumbde) was in the invitation for the Elgar Parishad event. Two, there were letters between members of the CPI (M) which referred to 'comrade Anand'.

"Three, that he has been travelling abroad to propagate the ideology in the garb of academic work, and four, he made efforts to release members from jail and delivered a memorial lecture in memory of a late CPI (M) leader," it said.

Bhati said 22 accused have been charge-sheeted so far and the probe is continuing in the case.

She said out of these 22, only two have been granted bail and one is under house arrest.

"Your lordships will look at the larger canvas on which CPI (M) works," the ASG argued.

The high court had on November 18 granted bail to Teltumbde noting prima facie the only case made out against him relates to alleged association with a terror group and the support given to it, for which the maximum punishment is 10 years in jail.

It had also noted there was no evidence to show he was an active member of the banned CPI (Maoist) or had indulged in any terrorist act.

The high court had, however, stayed its bail order for a week so the National Investigation Agency could appeal its order in the Supreme Court.

Teltumbde is the third accused among 16 arrested in the case to be released on bail. Poet Varavara Rao is currently out on bail on health grounds, while lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj secured regular bail.

While granting bail, the high court said Teltumbde had already spent more than two years in jail.

After perusing the documents submitted by the NIA, the high court had said prima facie it cannot be presumed that Teltumbde is actively involved in the work of the CPI (Maoist) or is an active member of the group.

Teltumbde is lodged at the Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai since his arrest in the case in April 2020.

His brother Milind, a member of the central committee of the CPI (Maoist), was killed in an encounter with security forces in November 2021 in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli.

Anand Teltumbde had claimed he was not present at the December 31, 2017 Elgar Parishad event held in Pune city, nor made any provocative speeches.

The prosecution's case was that provocative and inflammatory speeches were made at the event, allegedly backed by the banned CPI (Maoist), which later led to violence at Koregaon Bhima village near Pune.

The accused in the case have been charged with offences relating to waging a war against the nation, being active members of the CPI (Maoist), criminal conspiracy and indulging in acts with an intent to strike terror in the minds of people using explosive substances.

The trial court is yet to frame charges in the case after which the trial will commence. PTI ABA SJK ABA SK SK

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