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Koregaon-Bhima: SC grants more time to Maharashtra police to file chargesheet


Press Trust of India New Delhi
In a relief to the Maharashtra police, the Supreme Court Monday granted it more time to conclude its probe and file a chargesheet in the Koregaon-Bhima violence case.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi stayed the Bombay High Court order, which had set aside the lower court's verdict allowing extension of time to the police to file the probe report against the rights activists arrested in the case.
The bench, also comprising justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, issued notice to the rights activists on a plea of the Maharashtra government, seeking their replies within two weeks, and stayed the operation of the high court order.
The bench considered the submissions of former attorney general and senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for the Maharashtra government, that denial of time would entitle the accused to statutory bail due to non-filing of the chargesheet within the stipulated time period of 90 days.
Assailing the high court order, Rohatgi said the investigating officer (IO) of the case had filed the application seeking extension of time for filing the chargesheet before the trial court and the same was endorsed by the public prosecutor as well.
Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi opposed the submissions, saying the high court had rightly held that filing of such applications was illegal as such pleas were filed by the public prosecutor independently, after taking note of the IO's requirement.
The bench stayed the order, paving the way for extension of time to file the chargesheet in the case.
Meanwhile, the bench also issued notice on another plea of the Maharasthra police challenging the Delhi High Court order quashing the transit remand in the case of activist Gautam Navlakha.
Rohatgi said the Delhi High Court should not have entertained the habeas corpus (bring the body) writ petition in the case as the apex court had ordered the house arrest of the accused.
"How can there be a habeas corpus petition when the Supreme Court is saying they will be kept in house arrest," he said.
Earlier, the apex court had refused to interfere with the arrest of five rights activists by the Maharashtra police in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima violence case and declined to appoint a special investigation team (SIT) for a probe into their arrest.
The Pune police had arrested lawyer Surendra Gadling, Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen, Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale, activist Mahesh Raut and Kerala native Rona Wilson in June for their alleged links with Maoists under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
The arrests had followed raids at their residences and offices in connection with the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31 last year, which the police had claimed had led to violence at Koregaon-Bhima the next day.
The Maharashtra government had moved the apex court on October 25, challenging the Bombay High Court order by which the extension of time granted to the state police to conclude the probe in the case was set aside.
In the previous hearing, the bench had considered the submissions of lawyer Nishant Katneshwar, who appeared for the Maharashtra government, that the appeal needed to be heard on an urgent basis.
The lawyer had said if the high court order was not stayed, the accused in the case would be entitled to statutory bail for the non-filing of the chargesheet within the stipulated period.
Under the UAPA, a chargesheet must be filed within 90 days of arrest. However, the prosecutor can file a report before the trial court, explaining the reasons for the delay, and seek more time. If satisfied, the court can extend the time by 90 days.
In the present case, the Pune Sessions Court had granted the police the additional 90 days, following an application from the IO and written submissions made by an assistant commissioner of police (ACP).
Gadling had challenged this, saying the report and the submissions came from the police, not the prosecutor. Under the UAPA, the report should be filed by the prosecutor, he had said.
The Maharashtra government's petition filed in the apex court had said the IO had filed an application in the trial court under his signature, giving reasons for extension of time, on August 30.
"On the very same day, the public prosecutor submitted her report/application, carving out the grounds for extension of time. The public prosecutor, by way of abundant precaution, took the signature of the investigating officer. But the high court was carried away by the signature of the investigating officer and arrived at a conclusion that the report/application was not by the public prosecutor," the plea had said.
It had also said the high court should not have been carried away by the mentioning of names of the parties in detail.

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First Published: Oct 29 2018 | 5:35 PM IST

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