Bombay HC questions Bhima Koregaon Activist Over Keeping ‘War & Peace’ Home

While hearing the bail plea filed by academic Vernon Gonsalves, who was arrested for his alleged involvement in the Bhima Koregaon violence, it was observed by the Bombay High Court that the books which had been recovered from Gonsalves’s residence are supposedly “against the State”.

Among the materials seized from Gonsalves’s residence are books like the ‘Rajya Daman Virodhi’, ‘War and Peace’, ‘Marxist Archive’ and pamphlets like ‘Kabir Kala Manch’. Reacting to the court’s observation, defence lawyer Mihir Desai questioned if recovery of the books is sufficient ground for establishing the former academic’s involvement in the case.

Besides books and circulars, the police recovered computers and discs from Gonsalves’s residence upon conducting searches in August 2018. However, Aruna Pai, the Additional Public Prosecutor appearing for the State, stated that nothing incriminating has been found on the cloned copies of the electronic devices received from the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) thus far.

The original electronic devices are still in the possession of the FSL and the prosecution has only received a cloned copy of the data.

During the bail hearing on Tuesday, 27 August, Advocate Desai argued that there is no direct evidence against Vernon Gonsalves in the case. He argued that the prosecution was relying on the fact that two letters were recovered from the computers of the other arrested activists that only mentioned Gonsalves’s name, hence making clear that none of the letters were addressed to Gonsalves or written by him.

Bail pleas of Vernon Gonsalves and activists Sudha Bharadwaj and Arun Ferreira are being heard by the Bombay High Court on a daily basis from 27 August.

61-year-old Vernon Gonsalves, a former academic, was among the many activists who were arrested in the aftermath of the Bhima Koregaon violence that took place in January 2018.

He was arrested along with activists Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha and in jail for more than one year.

The police slapped multiple cases against Gonsalves under various Sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Arms Act.

On 8 August, the Bombay High Court granted two-day bail to activist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj to attend the final rites of her father in Bangalore. Bharadwaj’s bail plea too, will be heard in court soon.

(With inputs from The Quint)

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