Surendra Gadling is a human rights lawyer and activist from Nagpur known to have taken up cases of extrajudicial killings, police excesses, fake cases, and atrocities against Dalit and Adivasi communities. He has represented numerous human rights defenders arrested on fabricated charges. He is the General Secretary of the Indian Association of Peoples’ Lawyers (IAPL).
Life and activism
He started his career by working as an apprentice in railways. While working as an apprentice in the Railways, he started the Awhan Natya Manch, which would organise cultural evenings on the basis of Nagpur and engage in conversations around rights and oppressions. He has fought cases for those falsely arrested in the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TDAP) and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Throughout his career, he advocated for the rights of political prisoners falsely accused of being Maoist or extremists. He has also represented the Adivasis in land displacement cases in Maharashtra.
Circumstances of arrest
The Pune police raided his house on April 16, 2018, and he was arrested on June 6, 2018, for allegedly instigating violence in the bicentennial commemoration of the Bhima Koregaon battle. An Elgar Parishad convention was organised in Maharashtra to commemorate the annual event by retired judges B.G.Kolse Patil and P.B.Sawant; the Pune police claimed that the inflammatory speeches of the activists present in the event caused violence and that Maoists funded the event. Arsenal Consulting, a US-based forensic firm revealed that for over 20 months, the computer of Mr. Gadling was hacked, surveilled, and incriminating documents were planted.
For over 20 months, lawyer and human rights defender Surendra Gadling’s computer was attacked and surveilled, and incriminating documents were planted on it. He was one of the first people to be arrested among the 16 human rights activists, lawyers and academics in custody in the ongoing Elgar Parishad case, was cyber-attacked on February 16, 2016 – two years before he was finally arrested on June 6, 2018. Fourteen significant documents, on the basis of which the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has held him in jail for over three years, were planted on his computer using a malware called NetWire.
Charges & Allegations
On June 6 2018 he was arrested by the Pune Police, along with four others- Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson and Mahesh Raut.
They were accused of having Maoist links and were charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
On June 8, 2018, he was moved from police remand to judicial custody because of his deteriorating health condition.
On December 1, 2021, the Bombay High Court denied default bail to eight accused persons in the case– Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, and Arun Ferreira. The court held that the petitioners had not applied for the bail on time.