After three years in custody, activist Sudha Bharadwaj walks out of jail on bail
Mumbai, December 9, 2021
After spending over three years in jail, lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj finally walked out of the Byculla Women's Prison here on Thursday, nine days after she was granted a default bail by the Bombay High Court.
Stepping out of the prison gates in the afternoon, a frail but relaxed Bharadwaj waved out to the waiting media persons, before she was driven to her local residence.
The development came after the Supreme Court rejected the National Investigation Agency's (NIA) plea against the Bombay High Court's December 1 verdict granting default bail to Bharadwaj and the route was cleared for her release from the jail on Wednesday with completion of the bail formalities.
On Wednesday, Special NIA Court Special Judge D. E. Kothalikar allowed Bharadwaj -- an accused in the Koregaon Bhima-Elgaar Parishad cases and allegedly having links with Maoist groups -- to be released on a cash bail of Rs 50,000.
As per the high court directions, he also set out the terms and conditions for Bharadwaj's bail including that she must reside in Mumbai, not to leave the city without the court's permission, and deposit her passport with the NIA.
However, the Special Court rejected her plea to travel to Chhattisgarh, or Delhi for her legal practice and also barred her from talking to the media about the case. She has been asked to attend proceedings of the trial in the court and ensure it is not delayed due to her absence.
Bharadwaj becomes the first of the 16 accused in the case to be enlarged on a default bail, though another accused P. Varavara Rao, has secured bail on medical grounds, and one accused, Fr. Stan Lourduswamy died in custody while waiting for bail last July.
Hailing from Chhattisgarh, Bharadwaj was arrested by Pune Police on August 28, 2018 in connection with the Koregaon Bhima-Elgaar Parishad cases and slapped with charges under the stringent UAPA. Later, the NIA took over the case probe in January 2020.
The investigators claimed in the charge sheet that documents found from some of the co-accused and other evidence established her links with Maoist activities and the banned CPI-Maoist.