Supreme Court asks NIA court to decide on framing charges against Bhima-Koregaon accused Vernon Gonsalves in 3 months

Read Time: 06 minutes


Gonsalves, who has been in custody since 2018, has challenged the order of Bombay High Court rejecting his bail. He is one of the accused in Bhima-Koregaon violence case. 

A Supreme Court bench of Justices UU Lalit and SR Bhat today asked the NIA court to decide on framing charges against Vernon Gonsalves, an accused in the Bhima-Koregaon case, in three months.

The bench, which was hearing Gonsalves' bail plea, further directed the registry to list the matter after three months to take stock of the situation.

Gonsalves’ petition arises from the rejection of his bail application by the Bombay High Court in 2019. He is lodged in Pune jail from August 28, 2018 in respect of offences punishable under UAPA.

Appearing for Gonsalves, Sr Adv Rebecca John argued that three statements pertaining to him are alleged to have been recovered from the laptops of certain other persons and three more statements of witnesses have been recorded by the authorities from witnesses, including one whose identity is protected.

She submitted that these statements do not spell out any role so as to implicate Gonsalves in respect of UAPA. It was further submitted that certain portions on the supplementary chargesheet indicate that the Gonsalves was in Hyderabad at the given time.

ASG Raju appearing for NIA apprised the court of the fact that Gonsalves was convicted by sessions court at Nagpur for offences u/S 10 and 13 of UAPA and was sentenced to three years of imprisonment. According to the ASG, even after completion of the sentence, he continued his activities. He further submitted that the gravity of activities can be discerned from the statements recovered from laptops as well as those by witnesses.

It was further submitted that out of the accused persons who were taken in custody, one has died, while the other 4 are still absconding, leaving 15 in custody. ASG Raju argued that he has already advised the concerned Public Prosecutor either to take appropriate steps for segregating the trial with respect to the15 accused and/or to declare issuance of proclamation for the other 4 accused.

It was submitted by the ASG that the arrested accused have been preferring one application or the other as a result of which, the matter could not be taken up for effective consideration to see whether charge framing is needed or not.

The court, on hearing the submissions, directed NIA to take appropriate steps either to have the trial segregated against arrested accused and/or to pray for issuance of appropriate direction to declare them as proclaimed offenders. Court further took note of the fact that some accused have preferred discharge applications and directed that those will also be heard simultaneously.

Lastly, Court directed that the entire exercise shall be completed in three months.

The matter has now been adjourned till three months.

Case title: Vernon Gonsalves Vs Union of India