Bombay High Court on Thursday granted bail to activist Mahesh Raut, an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case who has been in pre-trial captivity for over five years, noting the evidence relied upon by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) was hearsay and not corroborated.
At the most, Raut, 33, can be said to be a member of the CPI (Maoist) but no covert or overt terrorist act has been attributed to him and the NIA has placed no evidence to show that he was involved in recruiting people to the banned outfit, said a division bench of Justices A.S. Gadkari and Sharmila Deshmukh.
Special public prosecutor Sandesh Patil, appearing for the NIA, sought a two-week stay on the order. The bench granted a week’s stay.
Raut was arrested in June 2018 and is in judicial custody at the Taloja prison on the outskirts of Mumbai.
“In the present case, the incriminating material does not in any manner prima-facie lead to draw an inference that the appellant (Raut) has committed or indulged in a ‘terrorist act’ as contemplated under Section 15 of the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act),” the court said.
It noted that at the most it can be said that Raut was a member of the CPI (Maoist), a charge that would attract only provisions of Sections 13 and 38 of the UAPA. It said the maximum sentences under these sections were jail terms of 7 years and 10 years.
“According to us, there is no material on record to indicate that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusations against the appellant under Sections 16, 17, 18, 20 and 39 of the UAPA are prima facie true,” the court said. These sections pertain to recruitment, punishment for terrorist activities, conspiracy to commit terrorist activity, punishment for being a member of a terrorist group and committing an offence to support a terrorist group.
The court said Raut was in pre-trial incarceration for more than five years and had no criminal antecedents, which made him eligible for bail.
The bench directed Raut to submit a surety of Rs 1 lakh as bail and permitted him to furnish cash bail for a period of eight weeks.