THE SUPREME Court Tuesday recorded an undertaking by the Chhattisgarh government that it would not arrest Delhi University professor and activist Nandini Sundar and others in an FIR lodged against them in connection with the killing of a tribal man allegedly by Maoists, and that it would give them advanced notice of four weeks before proceeding in the case.
“Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta says that Nandini Sundar, Archana Prasad, Vineet Tiwari and others will not be arrested or interrogated. State government is directed to give four weeks advance notice before proceeding in the case. Liberty to petitioners to approach court after the notice is served,” said a bench led by Justice Madan B Lokur.
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The bench, however, refused to entertain Sundar’s plea that the state should first take permission from the court before arresting or interrogating her and other activists in the case.
“No, they can’t be stopped perpetually. If there is a crime, they need to proceed. It is their statutory right. They will first give you notice and then they can proceed,” said the court, adding that the activist can approach the court after the notice is served.
On November 7, DU Prof Sundar, JNU Prof Archana Prasad and others were booked on charges of murder of a tribal villager in the insurgency-hit Sukma district of Chhattisgarh.
At the outset, senior advocate Ashok Desai, appearing for Sundar and other activists, produced some newspaper clippings and said that IG Bastar Range S R P Kalluri had recently made a statement that Sundar and others would not be able to enter Bastar and that people would pelt them with stones. He said this should not be allowed.
Mehta countered the argument by claiming that whenever there is a hearing on the matter, there are news reports and if the court wants to take them on record, it should also have a look at the records that the state government wanted to submit.
The bench, however, disposed of the application filed by Sundar and said if any notice is issued, they have the liberty to approach the court.
On November 11, the court had taken on record the statement of the Chhattisgarh government that no action would be taken against Sundar and others till November 15 and asked the state to find a peaceful solution to the Naxal problem, and adopt a “pragmatic” approach.
Police had claimed that armed Naxals had allegedly killed the villager, Shamnath Baghel, with sharp weapons on the night of November 4 at his residence in Nama village under Kumakoleng gram panchayat in Tongpal area, around 450 km from Raipur. Baghel and some others were spearheading protests against Naxal activities in their village since April.
An FIR under charges of murder, rioting and conspiracy was lodged against Sundar, Archana Prasad, Vineet Tiwari (from Delhi-based Joshi Adhikar Sansthan), Sanjay Parate (Chhattisgarh CPI-M State Secretary) and others for the murder of Baghel based on the complaint of his wife, the state police had said.