Bhima Koregaon case: NIA files draft charges against 16 arrested persons and six others

Published : August 24, 2021 21:21 IST

Sudha Bharadwaj. A file picture. Photo: Jignesh Mistry

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has filed a list of draft charges against the 16 persons imprisoned in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case, in a Special NIA Court in Mumbai. on August 23, 2021. The agency filed the charges on August 23. Also named in the charge sheet are six persons who are absconding.

Based on the charge sheet, the special court will decide the sections under which the accused can be charged, and once the charges are filed the trial can begin. The Bhima Koregaon victims have been languishing in jail for more than two years without allowance for bail as they have been arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

A report from a law news website says the charges include “waging war against the country”, which is punishable by death. The draft charges state that the accused are “members of the banned CPI (Maoist) and its front organisations, whose main objective is to establish a “Jantan Sarkar or a People’s Government via a revolution supported by a commitment to protracted armed struggle, to undermine and to seize power from the state”. This particular charge has been consistent since the time the victims were indicted in the Bhima Koregaon case, however the accusation that members of the group were part of an assassination plot against Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have been dropped from the draft list. The NIA instead charges them with a conspiracy to cause death to a public functionary.

Other charges include sedition, promoting enmity between groups, and criminal conspiracy under relevant sections of the UAPA. The NIA claims that the Elgaar Parishad event that was held on December 31, 2017, was deliberately organised “to exploit the communal sentiments of Dalit and other classes across the State and provoked them in the name of caste in order to create violence, instability and chaos in District Pune, at various places including Bhima Koregaon and in the state of Maharashtra”. More specifically, the charges said the accused conspired to demand and organise Rs.8 crore for “annual supply of M-4 (sophisticated weapons)” and had recruited students from various universities for “commission of terrorist activity”.

The draft charges were submitted before special judge D.E. Kothalikar against Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Hany Babu, the late Father Stan Swamy, Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor and Jyoti Jagtap. The wanted include Milind Teltumbde, a well-known extreme left leader.