The Bombay High Court has reserved its decision on the bail pleas of seven accused in the Elgaar Parishad case.

MumbaiSeptember 2, 2021

Bombay high court, elgar parishad, Pune session court, seven accused, bail plea

File photo of Bombay High Court (Photo: PTI)

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday reserved its order on the accused’s plea in the 2018 Elgar Parishad case.

The plea challenged the Pune Sessions Judge’s decision to take cognisance of the charge sheet against them and quash the criminal proceedings.

The accused- Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Vernon Gonsalves, and Arun Ferreira, had sought bail on the grounds that Pune Sessions Judge RM Pande lacked jurisdiction to take cognisance of the charge sheet as original jurisdiction in the case belonged to the Magistrate.

The petitioner accused challenged an order dated September 5, 2019, that rejected the default bail application under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure and Section 43-D (2) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Opposing the petition, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni for the Maharashtra government stated that the court’s cognisance of the charge sheet was not a relevant consideration in hearing a default bail plea.

“The factor that needed to be considered was whether the charge sheet was filed on time or not,” Ashutosh Kumbhakoni said.

In the present case, the charge sheet was filed within the Court’s extended time limit.

He further said that Section 16 of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act stated clearly that the agency “may take cognisance,” implying that the same was not mandatory.

He contended that the Special Court was only supposed to consider trial-related matters. “Since taking cognisance of offences was not mandated, the Sessions Court could have taken cognizance of the charge sheet as a pre-trial stage”.

Kumbhakoni sought dismissal of the plea on the grounds that it was not maintainable.

“A detailed order is also not required. Just a two-page order recording dismissal will suffice,” Kumbhakoni stated before concluding his remarks.

After Kumbhakoni, NIA’s Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh contended that the petitioner accused seemed to have challenged just the decision rejecting their default bail and that no other orders granted by the same judge were contested.

“There were orders extending remand, there were orders transferring the hearing to the NIA Court, none of that is challenged,” Singh argued.

Following the conclusion of the respondents’ submissions, Advocate Sudip Pasbola, appearing for the petitioners, delivered a brief rebuttal. He pointed out to the Court that both counsels had failed to address the central question of the plea, which was whether the Court that took cognisance of the charge sheet had jurisdiction or competence to do so.ADVERTISEMENT

The bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar reserved their order after hearing both arguments. The order will be issued in conjunction with another petition filed by Sudha Bharadwaj, a co-accused in the Elgar Parishad case who had previously raised the same objection.