Pasbola, however, argued that the police had not placed anything on record to prove such meeting or conference was held, and also stressed IAPL was not a banned organisation.
Activist Arun Ferreira told the Bombay High Court on Friday that there was no incriminating evidence against him in the Elgar Parishad-Koregaon Bhima case. Ferreira’s counsel Sudeep Pasbola told the court that the former had been arrested by Pune police only because of his acquaintance with co-accused Surendra Gadling, and on account that Ferreira was a member of the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL).
Pasbola told a single bench presided by Justice Sarang Kotwal that Ferreira was an activist and lawyer working for the rights of tribals. Justice Kotwal has been conducting detailed hearings on the bail pleas filed by Ferreira and his co-accused in the case, Sudha Bharadwaj and Vernon Gonsalves. The three are among several activists arrested in the case last year by the Pune police over alleged Maoist links and several other charges following the violence at Koregaon Bhima between December 31, 2017 and January 1, 2018.
Pasbola said, in 2007, Ferreira was arrested on 12 charges and spent five years in Nagpur Central Jail, and was ultimately acquitted of all the charges and released in 2012. During these years, Gadling was Ferreira’s lawyer, Pasbola said, adding that “he, therefore, got acquainted with Gadling”. “And when Gadling was arrested last year in the present case, Arun and some others filed their vakalatnama and began to represent Gadling in the case. This brought Arun under the scanner (of Pune police), he said. Pasbola said Ferreira was not named as an accused in the case initially, and that his name was added to the list of accused in the supplementary charge sheet filed by the Pune police.
To support his arrest, police cited “nine letters and two statements of witnesses, none of which link him (Ferreira) to the alleged conspiracy, or provide any incriminating evidence against him,” Pasbola told the high court. Some of these letters make a reference to Ferreira’s first name, and in one of those, it has been claimed that Ferreira was tasked with attending a meeting of IAPL in Kerala on December 9-10, 2017. The police told the high court on Friday that Ferreira’s call record details prove he was in Kerala on those two days. As per the police’s affidavit, the said meeting or conference was held to “commemorate the golden jubilee” of the Naxalbari movement in India.
Pasbola, however, argued that the police had not placed anything on record to prove such meeting or conference was held, and also stressed IAPL was not a banned organisation. “It is an internationally recognised body. Its membership, conferences are all open to members of the public, lawmakers etc,” Pasbola said. “And even if the Naxalbari movement was commemorated at its event, there is nothing illegal about it,” he said. Pasbola will continue his arguments in the case on Monday.