With nine of the ten accused in the Bhima Koregaon case continuing to remain in jail, The Caravan on Saturday, 14 December, reported on “several technical anomalies and clear procedural violations” by the Pune Police in its investigation and handling of evidence in the case.
Based on the scrutiny of the evidence, The Caravan report claims “blatant flouting” of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and the procedure that it spells out for handling digital evidence, especially focusing on evidence surrounding Surendra Gadling.
Among the evidence that the police had relied on to press its case were purported letters contained in the hard drives of some of the accused.
The alleged violations by the police that The Caravan report points out include what appears to be editing of the files while the devices were in police custody as well procedural violations during the raids that were conducted on the accuseds’ homes.
According to the report, the accused were also not given timely access to the evidence used against them by the authorities. Moreover, it also raises questions about the existence of the files in ‘.docx’ or ‘.pdf’ formats, which are easier to manipulate, rather than in the email form.
Among the accused in the case are Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Varavara Rao, Sudhir Dhavle, Sudha Bhardwaj, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira.
According to the Pune Police, inflammatory speeches delivered by some of them at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in the city on 31 December 2017 triggered caste violence at the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial in the district the next day (1 January 2018).
They also claim, using a letter which was leaked to the media before being presented to the courts, that the activists were part of a plot conspiring to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Caravan’s analysis raises serious concerns about this letter, including the metadata relating to this letter on Gadling’s computer, and issues with the formatting of it.
The violence at Bhima Koregaon village had left one dead and several injured, including 10 policemen. The Uddhav Thackeray government has mentioned that it is considering dropping the cases against those arrested for the violence itself, though there has been no statement yet about the case against the activists.
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