Bhima Koregaon case: SC gives 3-month deadline to frame charges
The Supreme Court (SC) has given the designated National Investigation Agency (NIA) court hearing the Bhima Koregaon violence case a three-month deadline to decide on the framing of charges against the accused under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 for alleged Maoist links. The top court was hearing a plea by one of the accused, Vernon Gonsalves, seeking bail in the case.
The trial of the 15 arrested accused should be separated from that of the fugitives, according to a directive made by the SC bench of Justices UU Lalit and S Ravindra Bhat to the NIA. The bench said the move will assist the trial court in starting the proceedings in the case and in taking action to have the absconding accused declared proclaimed offenders.
In his plea, Gonsalves claimed that he had been imprisoned since August 2018 but that his trial had yet to begin. He also stated that some of the co-accused had already received bail. Senior Advocate Rebecca John, representing Gonsalves, argued that there was no evidence in the supplementary charge sheet to indict him and that he would have been granted bail.
According to Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, Gonsalves was allegedly waging war against the state, and the accused were communicating using encrypted codes, which required the assistance of forensic experts to decode. He explained that the trial was also delayed because some of the accused had yet to be arrested and others had filed discharge applications.
The bench, on the other hand, noted that Gonsalves was not a first-time offender and had previously been found guilty of belonging to a prohibited group. It also noted that the court usually gives first-time offenders the benefit of the doubt. However, in this case, Gonsalves was found guilty of belonging to an unlawful group. "You are not completely innocent," SC said.
On January 1, 2018, massive violence erupted in a small Maharashtrian named of Bhima Koregaon during the bicentennial celebrations of the 200-year-old battle of Bhima Koregaon. One person died as a result of the violence, and several others suffered injuries. Later, police arrested several activists as the investigation into the incident revealed they had "Maoist links."