In relief to the Maharashtra police, the Supreme Court on Monday granted it time till December 1 to file the chargesheet in Koregaon-Bhima violence case and ensure that the accused rights activists do not become entitled to statutory bail on account of non-filing of the probe report within the legally permissible period.
Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, if police does not file the chargesheet within 90 days in serious offences, the arrested accused become entitled for grant of statutory bail on the ground of delay.
A Pune special court, on the expiry of 90-day deadline for filing of the chargesheet on September 2, 2018, had extended the time by another 90 days for filing the probe report in the violence case by taking note of the plea of the state police.
The Pune police had arrested lawyer Surendra Gadling, Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen, Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale, activist Mahesh Raut and Kerala native Rona Wilson in June for their alleged links with Maoists under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The trial court decision was set aside by the Bombay high court leading the state government to approach the apex court.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi stayed the Bombay high court order, which had set aside the lower court's verdict allowing extension of time to the police to file the probe report against the rights activists arrested in the case.
The bench, also comprising justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, issued notice to the rights activists on a plea of the Maharashtra government, seeking their replies within two weeks, and stayed the operation of the high court order.
The bench considered the submissions of former attorney general and senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for the Maharashtra government, that denial of time would entitle the accused to statutory bail due to non-filing of the charge sheet within the stipulated time.
Assailing the high court order, Rohatgi, who was assisted by lawyer Nishant Katneshwar, said the investigating officer (IO) in the case had filed the application seeking extension of time for filing the charge sheet before the trial court and it was endorsed by the public prosecutor as well.
Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi opposed the submissions, saying the high court had rightly held that filing of such applications was illegal as such pleas were filed by the public prosecutor independently, after taking note of the IO's requirement.
The bench stayed the order, paving the way for extension of time to file the charge sheet in the case.
Meanwhile, the bench also issued notice on another plea of the Maharasthra police challenging the Delhi high court order quashing the transit remand in the case of activist Gautam Navlakha.
Rohatgi said the Delhi high court should not have entertained the habeas corpus writ petition (bring the arrested to the court) in the case as the apex court had ordered the house arrest of the accused.
"How can there be a habeas corpus petition when the Supreme Court is saying they will be kept in house arrest," he said.
Earlier, the apex court had refused to interfere with the arrest of five rights activists by the Maharashtra police in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima violence case and declined to appoint a special investigation team for a probe into their arrest.
The arrests had followed raids at their residences and offices in connection with the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31 last year, which the police had claimed had led to violence at Koregaon-Bhima the next day.
In the present case, the Pune Sessions Court had granted the police the additional 90 days, following an application from the IO and written submissions made by an assistant commissioner of police.
Gadling had challenged this, saying the report and the submissions came from the police, not the prosecutor. Under the UAPA, the report should be filed by the prosecutor, he had said.
The Maharashtra government's petition filed in the apex court had said the IO had filed an application in the trial court under his signature, giving reasons for extension of time, on August 30.
"On the very same day, the public prosecutor submitted her report/application, carving out the grounds for extension of time. The public prosecutor, by way of abundant precaution, took the signature of the investigating officer. But the high court was carried away by the signature of the investigating officer and arrived at a conclusion that the report/application was not by the public prosecutor," the plea had said.
It had also said the high court should not have been carried away by the mentioning of names of the parties in detail.