‘Evidence Planted’: Citing Forensic Firm Report, Shoma Sen Moves Bombay HC Against UAPA Charges

New Delhi: Professor Shoma Sen, an accused in the Elgar Parishad case, has moved the Bombay high court challenging the charges invoked against her by the National Investigation Agency, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The academic was arrested in June 2018 and has been lodged in the Byculla women’s prison in Mumbai since then. She is among the dozen academics, lawyers and activists who have been named in the case by the NIA and have been in jail since.

In her plea, Sen cited a report by a US-based digital forensics firm, Arsenal Consulting, that held that a cyber attacker had used malware to infiltrate a laptop belonging to activist Rona Wilson before his arrest.

For at least 22 months before the Pune Police had raided Wilson’s residence in New Delhi and arrested him, the cyber attacker had allegedly gained access to his laptop and planted at least 10 incriminating letters on it in that time, Arsenal Consulting had noted.

The Pune Police, and now NIA, has held that it has recovered letters exchanged between Wilson and members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) from his computer. NIA has used these alleged letters to also link Wilson to the Elgar Parishad conclave in Pune on December 31, 2017, which police have alleged was funded by Maoists.

Wilson is Sen’s co-accused in the case and had himself approached the high court in February this year for a stay on proceedings against him and the others, citing the report.

Sen said in her plea that the entire case against her was built on electronic evidence that the NIA claimed to have recovered from Wilson’s computer.

According to Bar and Bench, Sen further said that the evidence against her is “forged, hearsay and planted on the device.”

The legal news outlet also reported that her plea noted that verification by an independent source of the “clone copies” submitted by the NIA shows that the evidence was forged and planted.

“Sen pointed out that the Forensic Science Laboratory report was silent on the existence of malware or evidence which could show the electronic evidence was tampered with,” the report noted.

Sen also pleaded that the NIA’s submissions not be considered evidence considering they do not satisfy standards of authenticity.

“In light of the US firm’s report, such evidence must not hold value in the eyes of law,” she has said.

Her counsel Rahul Arote said the plea is yet to be assigned a date of hearing in the high court.

Sen had applied for bail on medical grounds in March last year. A senior citizen, Sen suffers from several ailments that made her more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 while in jail. A special NIA court, however, rejected her bail plea.

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