On October 3, the Bombay High Court granted bail to two people accused of being Maoists, saying it is “impossible to hold” that every person attracted to or influenced by the Maoist ideology “is to be treated as a member of a terrorist organisation”.
Sushma Ramtekke and Jyoti Chorge were granted bail for Rs 30,000 each, and sureties of similar amounts, on the condition that they visit their local police stations every Sunday.
The duo were arrested in April last year by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad for being a part of the Golden Corridor Committee – a group allegedly set up by the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) to spread its message in urban areas.
“A number of persons are influenced by and attracted to the Maoist philosophy because of the oppression of weaker sections of society. The applicants too, like a number of such persons, might have been influenced and impressed by the Maoist philosophy,” the court observed.
Justice Abhay Thipsay, while granting them bail, observed that committees appointed by the government to study the problem of naxalites have found that it is the social, political, economic and cultural discrimination faced by the poor that drives them to the Maoists.
“It is impossible to hold that all such persons are to be treated as members of a terrorist organisation, or that they are liable to be punished for having some faith in such a philosophy, or for having sympathy for those who propagate such philosophy,” Justice Thipsay said in his judgement.
Another point that went in favour of the two accused was that the prosecution could not show that they were active members of the banned organisation.
The court observed that while the prosecution had taken lot of effort to show how the organisation posed a threat to the entire country, it could not show how the two accused were in any way actively involved.
The court said that the investigating agency had levelled a number of charges and general allegations against the accused, but there was no allegation that that either of them had committed a terrorist act.
Lack of evidence
Moreover, it said they did not have any evidence to show that the duo had conspired to commit a terrorist act, organise a terrorist training camp, or recruit anyone for terrorist acts.
The prosecution relied mainly on books and materials allegedly recovered from the duo to show that they were members of the banned organisation. But on this issue, the court observed that the material recovered was not banned under Code of Criminal Procedure or any other law.
Noting that it would run against the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, the court said, “That the possession of certain literature having a particular social or political philosophy would amount to an offence – though such literature is not expressly or specifically banned under any provision of law – is a shocking proposition in a democratic country like ours.”
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