The accused – Varavara Rao (80) and Shoma Sen (60) -sought bail, saying they were suffering from multiple ailments and were vulnerable to coronavirus due to their age.

Mumbai: A holiday court has rejected the temporary bail pleas of civil activists Shoma Sen and Varavara Rao – both accused in the Elgar Parishad case, filed on the grounds of the coronavirus pandemic.

Additional sessions judge RR Bhosale noted while rejecting the bail pleas, “On facts and merits of the matter, admittedly no change of circumstances occurred while earlier bail applications have been rejected.” The court also noted that the minutes of the meeting of the high-power committee, as per the direction of the Bombay High Court, excludes to grant any kind of bail to the offenders under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic. “Thus, the accused are not entitled for grant of interim bail on that ground,” it said.

Sen, 61, is lodged in Byculla Women’s prison and Rao, 80, at the Taloja Central Prison, after being shifted from Pune’s Yerawada jail. They had sought temporary bail on the grounds of the coronavirus pandemic for a period as thought to be appropriate by the court. Sen’s advocate Sharif Shaikh said they will be challenging the order in the high court. Advocate R Sathyanarayan for Rao said they will have to do something but have not yet decided about challenging the order.

Arguing her bail plea, Shaikh had told the court that older people like Sen with underlying conditions are more prone to the infection. Sen has osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, glaucoma and was vulnerable to the virus, he had said. Rao said in his bail plea that he is 80 years of age and suffers from multiple ailments. His bail application mentioned that he had already written to the superintendent of Taloja jail earlier in the month for a separate confinement, as he was already a patient of respiratory problems and was suffering from suffocation.

The National Investigation Agency’s Special Public Prosecutor Prakash Shetty had opposed on the basis that their bail pleas on merit have been rejected by the Pune sessions court, where the matter was being conducted earlier. Shetty also told the court that the Supreme Court’s directions on letting undertrials on interim bail was not applicable to Sen and Rao, as the apex court’s directions are applicable for offences under the IPC, whereas they have been booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). He had also argued that they have not produced any medical documents to support their claims in the bail pleas.

Meanwhile, the holiday court allowed a plea filed by Adv Susan Abraham for permitting telephone access to all nine accused in the case and directed jail authorities to provide proper facility of telephonic communication to them as per rules. The plea was filed since jail visits by relatives or lawyers were not permitted due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Also, jail authorities would not allow inquiry on telephone as there was no such facility, they said.

Sen was arrested in June 2018 and Rao in August 2018 for their involvement in Elgar Parishad conclave on December 31, 2017 which according to the Pune police had led to violence near a war memorial in Koregaon Bhima near Pune the next day.

Nine people arrested in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist link case are being tried at a special court here after the NIA took over probe in the case in February.

The 2017 case, which was being handled by Pune Police, was transferred to the NIA by the Centre in January.

The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the ‘Elgar Parishad’ conclave, held at Shaniwarwada in Pune 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 claimed the conclave was backed by Maoists.

The nine accused are among 11 people booked by the NIA in the case for alleged links with Maoists.