The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted interim bail to Soni Sori, a tribal schoolteacher of Dantewada, and her relative, journalist Lingaram Kodopi, who are facing trial on the charge of having helped to arrange ‘protection money’ payoffs from steel giant Essar to Maoists in Chhattisgarh.
Ms. Sori and Mr. Kodopi were granted bail since the Chhattisgarh government did not produce an officer for assisting the court in examining the case records it had submitted earlier.
V.A. Mohta, senior counsel for Chhattisgarh, said none could be assigned as all officers were deployed on election duties. The next hearing is scheduled for December 3, when the State is expected to file its reply.
Ms. Sori, 38, and Mr. Kodopi have been in jail for the past two years, facing multiple criminal charges, ranging from manslaughter to criminal conspiracy. Ms. Sori is alleged to have been tortured in police custody and is still suffering from multiple injuries. Mr. Kodopi, who played a decisive role in exposing the massacre of villagers at Tadmetla in Bijapur district, claims his life and career have been ruined.
Amiy Shukla, one of Ms. Sori’s lawyer, said Ms. Sori was acquitted in six of the eight cases filed against her. Her husband, Anil Futane, co-accused in another case, died during this time. The children separated from the family.
D.V.C.S. Verma, general manager at an Essar steel plant, and B.K. Lala, an Essar contractor, were also arrested. However, they were granted bail in the first few months of their arrest.
Sori and Lingaram had allegedly faced torture in police custody on October 8 and 9 in 2011. The issue had hit national headlines raising alarm across the globe and many human rights activists coming together and providing them legal help. Sori had claimed she was sexually tortured in police custody. In her letters, she mentioned she was raped. “Stripping me naked, giving electric shocks, shoving stones inside me – is this going to solve the Naxal problem?” she wrote in letters to Supreme Court.
Activists all across the globe raised campaigns after it came to light, that a senior police official who, Sori alleged, had ordered her torture was conferred a gallantry award by the President of India in January 2012. Both Sori and Kodopi either got bail or were acquitted in most of the cases, but they were denied bail by the Chattisgarh courts. Sori has been acquitted in six of the eight cases.
Sori recently lost her mother and then after her husband Anil Futane, a paralytic patient. She was granted bail to perform his last rites on August 2 this year. Futane was also in jail for four years on charges of supporting Maoists. Sori has two daughters and one son who stay with relatives in Dantewada.