SC says only house arrest for 5 activists in Bhima Koregaon case
29 August 2018
Giving an interim relief to the five rights activists arrested by the Maharashtra police on Tuesday for alleged role in the Bhima Koregaon violence case, the Supreme Court today ordered not to take custody of the five activists and keep them under house arrest till the next hearing.
The Supreme Court will hear the case again on 6 September.
The order was given by a three-judge bench of CJI Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud on the petition filed against the arrest of five activists.
The plea filed by historian Romila Thapar along with human right activists Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande and Maya Darnall urged the SC to order an independent probe into arrest of the activists. They also wanted the apex court to seek an explanation from Maharashtra for "sweeping round of arrest" in the case.
The Maharashtra police on Tuesday raided the homes of prominent Left-wing activists across several states and arrested five of them. The raids were part of a probe into the violence between Dalits and upper caste Peshwas at Koregaon-Bhima village near Pune after an event called Elgar Parishad, on 31 December last year.
Security officials claimed to have recovered Maoist literature indicating plans to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and home minister Rajnath Singh raids during raides over the past five months.
Those arrested included 80-year-old Telugu poet Varavara Rao, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Farreira, trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha.
Appearing for the petitioners, lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that the FIR has no mention of the arrested people and there are no allegations that they were a part of any meeting. "The larger issue is the chilling effect merely because one does not agree with you (govt)," Singhvi said.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, however, said people with no connection to the case are placing the matter before the SC.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) also today issued notices to Maharashtra chief secretary and the Director General of police on the arrests of the activists.
The commission has said media reports suggest the Maharashtra police did not follow standard operating procedure, "which may amount to violation of their human rights".
Taking suo motu cognisance of the arrests, the NHRC said in a statement that media reports suggest the Maharashtra police did not follow standard operating procedure, “which may amount to violation of their human rights”.
In addition to the arrests, the Maharashtra police raided the houses of nine activists (including the five arrested) and seized electronic devices and other items.
The Delhi high court has stayed the transit remand for civil liberties activist Gautam Navlakha, saying, “police have not been able to satisfactorily explain the offence he had been arrested for”.
“The court has questioned how Pune police managed to get a transit remand from a Delhi court without any local witness. The court has also directed translation of the police documents into English which are in vernacular language,” the NHRC has said.
The commission has also brought up the arrest of Sudha Bharadwaj. “The activist has told the court that she had nothing to do with the incident for which she has been arrested. According to her, the FIR did not even name her and she is being harassed and arrested only because of her ideology,” the NHRC has said.
Those earlier arrested for the Bhima Koregaon violence included human rights lawyer from Nagpur Surendra Gadling, Dalit rights activist and journalist Sudhir Dhawale, former Prime Minister Rural Development fellow Mahesh Raut, prisoners’ rights activist Rona Wilson and associate professor from Nagpur University Shoma Sen.