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The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has told the Bombay High Court that accused Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha, arrested for making alleged inflammatory speeches during December 2017 Elgar Parishad conclave in Pune, are trying to delay the trial of the case.
Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha are among the 15 urban naxals arrested by NIA for their role in instigating violence resulting in the Bhima-Koregaon violence, and planning an assassination plot of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The SP of Mumbai Branch of NIA, V Vikraman, who filed the affidavit before a division bench of Justice Nitin M Jamdar and Justice Sarang V Kotwal has said that both accused are trying to delay the trial by filing pleas on one ground or the other.
The NIA affidavit is in response to a fresh petition filed by Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha. They have demanded clone copies of the electronic devices such as hard disks seized from them.
They want framing of the charges to stay till they receive the clone copies of digital evidence and they have also accused that the digital evidence devices were tempered. Sudha Bharadwaj approached Bombay High Court after Special NIA Court in Mumbai on June 23 rejected her plea seeking cloned copies of electronic evidence. Gautam Navlakha has also filed similar petition before the High Court seeking a stay on trial till the cloned copies are provided by NIA.
However, the NIA has rebutted their allegations. The NIA said that the allegation of tempering is nothing but a fanciful submission and told the court that the accused are deliberately ‘mixing up and controverting crucial facts’ without any basis. NIA alleged that the Urban Maoists are doing this in order to confuse the court and to frustrate the trial proceedings. NIA said that digital evidences are examined by the experts of the Forensic Science Laboratory.
“Appeal praying for clone copies of electronic evidence under Section 207 of CrPC is going to be supplied to the accused persons. Five pending clone copies in respect of the electronic devices of the appellant and her co-accused are yet to be received from the FSL,” the affidavit said.
NIA opposed their demand for interim stay on proceeding and urged the court against such pleas of accused persons. As far as cloned copies of digital evidences are concerned, the NIA has told the court the same will be provided once they are received from Forensic Science Laboratory, Mumbai.
To all accused of this case, the NIA has provided certified hard copies of the documents that the agency has mentioned in its charge sheet. The NIA said that the agency is yet to receive five final reports related to the devices of Bharadwaj and Navlakha. And once NIA receives them same, it will be submitted to the special NIA court and both accused can obtain these documents under due process of law as laid down in the Criminal Procedure Code.
NIA said that the agency filed the chargesheet against the arrested accused on the basis of clinching evidence. It further informed that the High Court had rejected the plea of the accused on the admissibility of the evidence.
In the Elgaar Parishad case, the NIA had submitted the draft of the chargesheet before the special trial court on August 9. The probe agency has charged them under various sections of IPC and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act including terrorist, unlawful activities, conspiracy, membership of the banned organisation and raising funds for it, criminal conspiracy, waging or attempting to wage a war or abetting war against the Union government, sedition and promoting enmity.
Senior Advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhry appearing for Bharadwaj objected that trial should not be commenced till the accused are provided with cloned copies of the digital hard disc. He said that denying the copy is a violation of the right to a fair trial under Article 21 of the Constitution. NIA reminded her lawyer that the supply of a few pending electronic documents which are already relied on against the accused cannot be an alleged non-curable violation of fundamental rights.