NEW DELHI — The Supreme Court on Thursday set a deadline of three months for the trial court to decide framing of charges in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon case.
A bench comprising justices U.U. Lalit and S. Ravindra Bhat noted National Investigation Agency (NIA’s) plea that there are four accused who have not been arrested so far in the case.
It asked the NIA to move the special court to segregate the trial against the 15 accused arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case from that of the accused who are still missing so that the trial can begin in the Bhima Koregaon case.
The bench asked the agency to declare the other four accused as proclaimed offenders.
The trial against social activists accused in the case is not progressing and even framing of charges have not taken place and the accused are in custody for the last four years.
The bench said as some accused have preferred discharge applications, the same should also be heard simultaneously.
“Let the entire exercise be undertaken in three months,” said the bench.
The top court passed the direction while hearing a bail plea by Vernon Gonsalves, one of the accused, who sought bail on the ground that he was in jail since August 2018 and the trial has not started yet. He pointed out that some other accused have already been released on bail.
The bench observed that his case was not similar to the other accused, as he was convicted in a 2011 case under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
The bench told Gonsalves to wait for three months, as it directed the trial court to decide whether charges could be framed against him.
Additional solicitor general (ASG) SV Raju, representing NIA, opposed Gonsalves’ bail plea.
A total of 16 accused were arrested in the Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case and one of them, Father Stan Swamy, a tribal rights activist, died in custody.
Two other accused — activist and law teacher Sudha Bhardwaj and Telugu poet Varavara Rao — have been granted bail. Rao was recently granted bail on medical grounds. — IANS