Supreme Court Grants Bail to Shoma Sen in Bhima Koregaon Case

Supreme Court grants bail to Shoma Sen in Bhima Koregaon case, citing doubts over allegations under UAPA. Ruling emphasizes need for prima facie evidence before denying bail.

Shoma Sen, who had been detained for nearly six years in the Bhima Koregaon case, was granted bail by the Supreme Court on April 5. The Court expressed doubts about the credibility of the allegations against her under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 1967 (UAPA). Justices Aniruddha Bose and Augustine George Masih, on examining the evidence presented by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), concluded that there were no reasonable grounds to believe the accusations as prima facie true. Consequently, the bail restriction under Section 43D(5) was deemed inapplicable to her case.

Sen had been charged under various sections of the UAPA due to alleged Maoist links in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. Arrested on June 6, 2018, she had awaited trial since then. The allegations against her fell under the bail-restricting clause of Section 43D(5).

The Supreme Court considered Sen's appeal against the Bombay High Court's January 2023 order, which directed her to seek bail from the special court handling her case.

The Court based its decision on precedents such as National Investigation Agency v. ZahoorAhmad Shah Watali and Vernon v. The State of Maharashtra & Anr. These cases underscored the necessity of reasonable grounds to believe accusations as prima facie true before denying bail under Section 43D (5).

Upon scrutinizing the evidence presented by the NIA against Sen, the Court noted that while Sen had attended the Elgaar Parishad meeting, there was no evidence of her involvement in any offensive acts. Furthermore, she was not named in the initial FIR.

The NIA accused Sen of being an active member of the CPI (Maoist) and involved in its terrorist activities. However, the Court found no prima facie evidence of her committing or attempting any terrorist act. The allegations lacked intent to threaten India's unity, integrity, or security.

Regarding the allegation of raising funds for terrorist activities under Section 17, the Court found it based on weak evidence from third parties, lacking corroboration.

The Court dismissed allegations of conspiracy under Section 18, stating Sen only participated in meetings and encouraged women to join the democratic revolution. These actions did not constitute a conspiracy under the UAPA.

There was no evidence of Sen being a member of the banned Maoist outfit. Thus, the Court could not apply the strict bail restrictions under Section 43D (5) against her. The allegations against her did not connect her to any terrorist organization or activities.

Citing the KA Najeeb case, the Court allowed bail to individuals accused under the UAPA to protect their right to a speedy trial under Article 21 of the Constitution. It rejected the argument from the agency, which relied on Gurwinder Singh v. State of Punjab, stating that bail is not a fundamental right. The Court emphasized that any deprivation of liberty must be justified as reasonable, fair, and proportionate.

In granting Sen bail, the Court considered her age, health, and the delay in framing charges and detention period. It clarified that its observations were prima facie and would not affect her trial.