Twelve hours after civil rights lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj returned to her home at Charmwood Village, in Sector 39 of Faridabad, Haryana, there was little sign of the events that had transpired in the locality only hours before. Besides regular appearance of police personnel, and a handful of mediapersons seated on plastic chairs below her home, it was everyday life playing out on just another Wednesday afternoon in the gated condominium, where Bharadwaj lives in a second-floor flat.
Around 7 am on Tuesday, friends and family members said, a group of around 10 police personnel, including a woman constable of Haryana Police, had arrived at her doorstep and detained her.
Bharadwaj’s day, and court proceedings, dragged into the early hours of Wednesday, when the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) in Faridabad, Ashok Kumar, finally recalled his order, passed barely four hours earlier, allowing Pune police to take the lawyer-activist into “transit remand”. CJM Kumar’s late-night order directed that Bharadwaj be taken back to her home and kept there until Thursday, when the matter was to come up for hearing again in High Court.
“The matter is sub judice before the Hon’ble High Court…in compliance of order of High Court, the transit remand issued at 7.40 pm is recalled till 30/08/2018 with direction to SHO Surajkund to keep the detenue Sudha Bharadwaj at her home at Badarpur Border,” the order read.
The development came after several hours of high drama in Faridabad, following the Tuesday evening order of the CJM. The order had come moments after the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, where the matter was being heard simultaneously, adjourned hearing on a habeas corpus plea against the detention for two days.
The CJM had granted the police “transit remand”. Bharadwaj’s lawyers had stated that CJM Kumar based this decision on “facts” before him, as he had not received any information from High Court regarding such an order. Following the decision, Bharadwaj was reportedly whisked away from the court by a police team. Soon, her lawyers said that they had no idea of her whereabouts, and alleged that Bharadwaj was being taken to the airport.
At this point, the investigating officer ostensibly received a phone call and was asked to return. Bharadwaj’s counsel Vrinda Grover said, “It was shocking. Despite a clear order of the Punjab and Haryana HC, Pune Police actually tried to continue to take her (on) transit remand. Sudha Bharadwaj has informed me that they took the vehicle towards the airport. However, on the way, the police received a call and they turned around.”
According to Grover, she had informed Inspector Shinde, who was leading the Pune Police team, and the SHO of Surajkund police station about the High Court order — on phone, text, and WhatsApp message. “It is shocking that Pune Police thought they could so brazenly violate the High Court order, which clearly said that until a decision is taken in the matter, she should be kept at her house,” she said.
Around 10.30 pm on Tuesday, proceedings shifted back to the CJM’s house. Bharadwaj’s lawyers alleged that they were initially not let in. The CJM eventually admitted them and heard arguments, following which the handwritten order was passed.
Bharadwaj had earlier on Tuesday told the media: “I think that whatever is the opposition to the present regime — whether it is on the issue of tribal rights or workers’ right or human rights, whatever it is, or Dalit rights for that matter — everybody who is in the opposition is being rounded up in this manner. I have been working for the last 30 years, and I know very well, I am absolutely a public figure, everybody knows about my credentials, I have nothing to do with the incident in the FIR.”