Bhima Koregaon: SC to hear petition challenging the Bombay HC order setting aside extension of time for investigation

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a petition challenging the Bombay High Court’s order which set aside the extension of time granted for the completion of investigation in the Bhima Koregaon case.

The Bombay High Court yesterday passed an order which effectively set aside the Special Judge’s order extending the detention of the accused for the purpose of completing the investigation into the Bhima Koregaon matter. As a consequence of the High Court order, those arrested could apply for default bail.

However, the Maharashtra Government has now challenged this order before the Supreme Court.

The same was mentioned before the Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice KM Joseph by the Counsel of State of Maharashtra, Nishant Katneshwarkar.

By way of background, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, and others were arrested by the Pune Police in June, in relation to the Bhima Koregaon violence that took place earlier this year.

On August 30, an application under Section 43-D of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 was made by the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Swargate Division, Pune with a view to extending the detention of the accused beyond the prescribed period of 90 days.

As per this provision, a court may grant extension of detention on being satisfied by an application made by the Public Prosecutor that the investigation could not be completed in 90 days. The detention period can be extended by another 90 days if this is the case.

On September 2, the Special Judge at Pune granted the same. This prompted Surendra Gadling and the others arrested in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence to approach the Bombay High Court.

Justice Mridula Bhatkar of the Bombay High Court yesterday partly allowed the writ petition, after noting that the application under Section 43-D was made by the Assistant Commissioner of Police (who is the Investigating Officer), and not the Public Prosecutor. The Court held,

“Hence, for the satisfaction of the conscience, the Judge needs the able assistance of the Public Prosecutor, who is expected to file his/her report. The method, medium or ways to reach a goal equally matters in the administration of justice. Extension of time for more than 90 days is a very serious decision curtailing the statutory right of the accused.”

Ultimately, the High Court set aside the Special Judge’s order granting an extension of detention of the accused. The State then sought a two-week stay on the order, in view of the fact that it wanted to approach the Supreme Court. The High Court stayed the operation of its order till November 1.

The State of Maharashtra has now approached the Supreme Court challenging the High Court order. The SLP filed today states that the accused did not formally oppose the application under Section 43-D when the same was made before the Special Judge. Moreover, it states that the High Court resorted to a “pedantic view rather than a pragmatic view” while deciding the matter.

“The public prosecutor, by way of abundant precaution, took signature of the investigating officer. But the High Court was carried away by the fact of signature of the investigating officer and arrived at a conclusion that the report/application was not by the public prosecutor.”

The Supreme Court will now hear the matter on Monday, October 29.

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