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Bombay HC declines bail to activist Sudha Bharadwaj in Elgar case

The Bombay High Court on Friday refused to grant bail to lawyer and activist Sudha Bharadwaj, an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Koregaon Bhima case being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

A bench led by Justice RD Dhanuka rejected an appeal filed by Bharadwaj in June this year, whereby she had challenged a special court’s order that denied her bail on health grounds.

Bharadwaj, 58, had approached the HC seeking bail, saying that she suffered from chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

She had said these comorbidities put her at a higher risk of contracting coronavirus while at the Byculla women’s prison where an inmate had tested positive for COVID-19 earlier.

The court, however, noted the submissions made by the NIA and the Maharashtra government that the prison authorities were taking all precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that they were providing necessary medical care to Bharadwaj for her comorbidities.

The NIA counsel, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, also told the court that if at any time Bharadwaj’s condition needed further treatment or if she was required to be admitted to a hospital, even a private one, the state would provide for the same.

He pointed out that poet-activist Varavara Rao, a co-accused in the case, had been admitted to the state-run JJ Hospital and then shifted to the private Nanavati Hospital in the city for treatment of COVID-19 and other ailments.

“In our view, no case is made out for grant of bail. This appeal is devoid of merits,” the HC said while dismissing Bharadwaj’s plea.

On August 21, pursuant to an HC order, the state government had submitted a report stating that Bharadwaj had been examined in the prison by a medical officer and that her health condition was found to be “stable and satisfactory”.

The state report stated that Bharadwaj’s vital health parameters were stable. It stated that she had been suffering from mild depression too, and had complained of body ache.

The state said that Bharadwaj had been given medication for dizziness and had been advised to continue medicines for her chronic conditions.

Bharadwaj’s counsel Ragini Ahuja, however, pointed out that the report of August 21 did not mention that Bharadwaj suffered from hypertension or from a heart condition.

She pointed out that the previous report of the state had said that Bharadwaj suffered from ischemia, a heart condition.

Ahuja claimed the latest medical report, therefore, was inconsistent and perhaps “bogus”.

The bench, however, said the present report probably only dealt with Bharadwaj’s vital parameters vis-a-vis COVID- 19.

It said: “In our view, there is no substance in the appellant’s submissions on inconsistencies in the medical report.”

Bharadwaj has been lodged in the Byculla women’s prison here since September 2018 following her arrest in the case.

The case pertains to the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune district on December 31, 2017. It is alleged that speeches made by some activists at the conclave led to violence near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial on outskirts of Pune city the next day.