The Supreme Court Wednesday extended the house arrest of the five rights activists arrested in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence case till September 17. A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud adjourned the hearing on the plea filed by historian Romila Thapar and four others to September 17 after it was submitted that senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is representing the petitioners, was busy in another court.
During an earlier hearing this month, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said the activists will remain under house arrest till September 12 and it will first examine “how far we can go into this”.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Maharashtra government, had contested the locus standi of the petitioners, saying they were strangers to the matter and should not be allowed to intervene in a criminal case.
But lawyers appearing for the petitioners countered this, saying that families of some of the victims had also filed affidavits and “this was now as good as a petition by people under house arrest”.
On August 29, while hearing the plea challenging their arrests, the Supreme Court observed that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy” and “if it is not allowed, the pressure cooker will burst”. The bench had directed that the five activists — Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha — arrested by Pune police be placed under house arrest.
While hearing a separate plea related to the Koregaon violence on September 4, the Bombay High court had pulled up the Maharashtra police for holding press briefings when the matter is sub judice. The court said no further briefing should be held.
In a press conference held on August 31, Maharashtra Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Parambir Singh released contents of the letters allegedly seized from five activists — Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling and Mahesh Raut– arrested earlier in connection the same incident.
The letters, police claimed, mentioned plans to allegedly purchase grenade launchers and ammunition worth Rs 8 crore for the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). Police claimed that the communications, which included “thousands” of letters, were found in hard disks seized from the home of Wilson in Delhi. Police also claimed that they required custody of the activists to confront them with the letters.