MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government on Thursday opposed before the Bombay High Court a bail petition filed by activist Sudha Bharadwaj, arrested in the Elgar Parishad case, saying her contention about a lower court lacking jurisdiction was incorrect.
Bharadwaj, in jail since September 2018, has sought bail on the technical ground that the court which took cognizance of the charge sheet initially lacked the power to do so.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni argued that although the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) was invoked in the case, the investigation was taken over by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from the police in 2020.
The case fell under the purview of a special court only after the NIA took it over, he said.
The sessions court in Pune, till then, had the jurisdiction, he added.
Special courts are set up under the NIA Act to “try” the matters investigated by the NIA, which “does not include hearings pre-trial,” Kumbhakoni said.
“The contention raised by the petitioner is fallacious,” the advocate general claimed.
A division bench of Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar will continue to hear the petition on July 23.
According to Bharadwaj, the sessions court in Pune which remanded her and eight others in police custody in 2018 did not have the power to hear a UAPA case.
Her lawyer Yug Chaudhry argued in earlier hearings that in offenses under the UAPA, a sessions judge can take cognizance only on specific instructions from the District Judge.
Police had alleged that `inflammatory’ speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave in Pune led to caste violence at the Bhima Koregaon war memorial in the district on January 1, 2018, and the conclave was backed by Maoists.
Activist Stan Swamy, arrested in the case last year, died in hospital earlier this month.