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Special NIA court grants bail to Sudha Bhardwaj, no media interaction among terms of bail

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A Special NIA Court granted bail to lawyer-activist Sudha Bhardwaj in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case on Wednesday on a surety of Rs 50,000 and set out bail terms which include not speaking to the media.

The bench of Special NIA judge D.E. Kothalikar said the court cannot lose site of the fact that there are serious allegations against Bhardwaj. She has shown apprehension of tampering of evidence. Considering the pros and cons of the matter, much leniency cannot be shown to her.

Bhardwaj is directed to stay in Mumbai and not leave the city without court’s permissions though she would be allowed a few relatives. However Special Public Prosecutor Prakash Shetty pointed out that she only has a daughter and no one else. She is further barred from making statements to the media. In order to complete the bail formalities, Bhardwaj was directed to be produced before the Trial Court on December 8 by the Bombay High Court.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court bench of Justice U.U. Lalit, Justice Ravindra Bhat and Justice Bela M. Trivedi had upheld the default bail granted to Sudha Bhardwaj by the Bombay High Court and dismissed the National Investigation Agency’s appeal against the HC order and said it finds no reason to interfere with the order of the Bombay High Court where the High Court granted bail to Bhardwaj on December 1.

Earlier the Bombay High Court had granted her bail based upon the findings of the Additional Sessions Court, Pune, where the time for investigation was extended beyond 90 days. The Court was not competent to do so because the special court under Section 22 of NIA Act was not notified of the same.

The special NIA court has further directed her to inform about any change of her residential address and has asked the NIA to conduct virtual or physical verification in order to confirm her residence.

Also Read: Bhima Koregaon case: Supreme Court upholds Bombay High Court order granting bail to Sudha Bhardwaj, rejects NIA appeal

Advocate Yug Chaudhry appearing on behalf of Bhardwaj submitted that she has no place to stay in Mumbai and she practices in Chhattisgarh High Court and has lost her source of earning while she was incarcerated in the prison for last 3 years and needed to earn her livelihood so she should be allowed to travel between Maharashtra, Delhi and Chhattisgarh.

However, the court refused Bhardwaj’s plea to travel between Delhi, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, despite the above submissions made by her counsel.

In the meanwhile Special Public Prosecutor Prakash Shetty said he has no objection to her release as she might not abscond however conditions should be imposed so that tampering of evidence does not take place.

Also Read: Troubled Waters

Apart from other conditions, Bhardwaj was directed to be released on bail after furnishing a personal bond of Rs 50,000 with one or more sureties.

Bhardwaj, who was arrested on August 28, 2018, and has been in custody for over 3 years, had filed a plea in the Bombay High Court for the default bail but, however, the judge was not designated to hear cases under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

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