The HC primarily found lack of corroboration in National Investigation Agency (NIA) case against Teltumbde and also prima facie inadmissible “hearsay evidence’’ of him secretly meeting in 2018 his alleged Maoist brother and wanted accused Milind Teltumbde—who was shot dead in an encounter with security forces in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli area last November.
Teltumbde 73, denied bail last July by special trial court was granted bail by the HC bench of Justices Ajay Gadkari and M N Jadhav for a surety of Rs 1 lakh.
The HC however, stayed its order by a week on request from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) counsel Sandesh Patil.
Senior counsel Mihir Desai for Teltumbde said there was no meeting with Milind for 25 years said NIA was making a “desperate attempt’’ to prove its allegation of terror act and HC agreed saying, “we do not think that provisions of Sections 16 and 18 can be invoked at this stage against Appellant for want of better proof and evidence.’’
The HC said the NIA case against Teltumbde a former management professor with IIT Kharagpur and a Goa Management Institute, “prima facie does not inspire confidence’’ to hold that he is either a member of the banned terrorist organization or that he can be punished for being involved terror acts or its conspiracy, under section 16, 18 and 20 of the anti-terror law—Unlawful activities (prevention) Act (UAPA), he is charged with.
The HC also said over 100 persons were named as ‘convenors/inviters’ on the invite for the December 31, 2017 Elgar Parishad but NIA has accused only some including Teltumbde not all.
Under UAPA, bail can be granted only if the court is satisfied that there is no prima facie case made out against the accused.
Section 16 of UAPA is an offence of terror and attracts death sentence or life imprisonment if a person dies, while section 18 deals with its conspiracy and 20 punishes someone for being a member of a terrorist outfit involved in terrorist acts.
The NIA case against Teltumbde is that he is an active member of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and involved in activities to overthrow the State, and like co-accused Hany Babu Tharayil a Delhi University professor and Jyoti Jagtap, a member of Kabir Kala Manch whose bail pleas the HC had earlier rejected, his should too.
The HC said, “We do not agree with submissions of NIA’’ that Teltumbde’s case is identical to Jagtap’s and also disagreed with NIA that “Teltumbde’s case stands on a much higher footing” than Hany Babu’s since he is “a person with intellectual ideology’’.
The HC after analysing the documents produced said NIA case of Teltumbde’s banned CPI (Maoist) membership “would fall in realm of presumption according to us which may need further corroboration’’ and later added that at the highest NIA case indicates he is a member of the banned outfit which would at most attract lesser offences related to membership under section 13,38 and 39 (membership and support to a terror outfit )of UAPA.
The HC said NIA has prima facie not probed the aspect of one death during the rioting the next day. The NIA case was that CPI (Maoist) used Elgar Parishad as a platform to further its larger conspiracy and Teltumbde as an active member participated in such conspiracy. The HC after perusing the case record said it did not agree with the NIA.
NIA said Teltumbde was working in urban areas as a senior member in contact with other arrested co-accused. HC said this needs more corroboration.
The bench noted that the document claiming that ‘Anand T’ had received Rs. 90, 000 from co-accused ‘Surendra (Gadling)’ through ‘Milind (Teltumbde) was unsigned,” therefore ” at this prima facie stage” it cannot presume that it was Teltumbde who received the amount as contended by NIA.
The HC said unless material is shown to the contrary it cannot rule out probability of a document naming “Anand’’ as central committee member of the CPI (Maoist), being related to another person as argued by Desai.
The HC said, on reading a letter cited by NIA allegedly by Milind to Anand saying they “must keep up presense through simultaneous programmes across many states as it will undoubtedly help us take down the Modi Juggernaut in 2019’’ it has not understood how Teltumbde is indicted in the case.
Teltumbde surrendered on April 14 2020 following orders of the apex court and was taken into custody by the NIA and has been at the Taloja central prison in Navi Mumbai.
He is charged with several offences under the stringent anti-terror law—Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)–, in the 2018 Elgar Parishad case from Pune for being the main convener of the conference held on December 31, 2017 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the historic Koregaon Bhima battle, where inflammatory speeches were made that led to violence next day at the memorial site and the death of one person.
He is also charged with offences like waging war against the government of India, sedition, promoting enmity between different groups and criminal conspiracy with co-accused.
The HC held that “the seizure of the incriminating material, does not in any manner prima facie leads to draw an inference that, appellant has committed or indulged in a ‘terrorist act’ as contemplated under Section 15 of the UAPA.”