Elgar Parishad Case: Sudha Bharadwaj Not Entitled to Bail on Ground of Pandemic, Says NIA

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has told the Bombay High Court that activist Sudha Bharadwaj, arrested in the Elgar Parishad case, is trying to "take undue benefit" of the COVID-19 pandemic by seeking bail.

In an affidavit submitted last week, the NIA urged the court to dismiss Bharadwaj's interim bail plea.

The agency said in its reply that Bharadwaj was not "entitled to any relief" even on the ground of COVID-19 situation as it had found "cogent evidence" that she was a "member of the banned organisation CPI (Maoist)".

Bharadwaj along with other accused in the case was involved in "providing strategic inputs" for "furtherance of an armed rebellion", it said. She played an active role in planning violence that aimed at "destabilizing" the current Union government, the probe agency claimed.

Bharadwaj was being "duly attended" in prison and "provided all necessary medical assistance as and when required", the NIA said.

"Pleading on the ground of the medical condition of the petitioner is merely a ruse to obtain interim relief which otherwise will not be available to her on the merits of the case," it said.

Bharadwaj, 58, moved the HC seeking bail after the special NIA court in Mumbai rejected her plea on May 29.

The petition was scheduled to be heard by a bench led by Justice AA Sayed on Tuesday, but it could not be taken up due to lack of time.

Bharadwaj, arrested in September 2018, is lodged in Mumbai Byculla Women's Jail where an inmate had tested positive for coronavirus last month.

She has sought bail on health grounds, arguing that there was high risk of the spread of virus in prisons. She also said that she was a diabetic and suffered from hypertension which made her more vulnerable to infection.

Bharadwaj has been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in connection with the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017.

Pune Police had alleged that Maoists had backed the conclave and inflammatory speeches delivered at the event triggered violence at the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial the next day. Now the NIA is probing the case.