The five activists, P Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha, who were arrested in connection with the investigation into the Bhima-Koregaon violence will remain under house arrest till September 12 when the Supreme Court will hear the matter next.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on Thursday said it will first examine “how far we can go into this”.
Appearing for the Maharashtra government, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the petitioners were strangers to the matter and could not be allowed to intervene in a criminal case.
But lawyers appearing for petitioners Romila Thapar and others 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”.
Appearing for the complainant, whose complaint was the basis for the FIR in the case, senior advocate Harish Salve told the bench, which also comprised Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, “This is not arresting people without ground or preventive detention.” There was a procedure to be followed in a criminal case, he pointed out.
ASG Mehta said keeping them under house arrest will prejudice the investigation. “They can do many things sitting at home, It will seriously prejudice the investigation,” he said.
Advocate Indira Jaisingh requested the court to direct the police not to share information in the case with the media.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan said the police was sharing “forged letters”, to which the CJI replied, “We can’t comment if it is fabricated or not.”
Justice Chandrachud took exception to the press conference conducted by the police on the issue and told the ASG that the police “was trying to make an insinuation that we should not have heard the matter”. He said the officer had “no business to be talking to the press while we are hearing the matter” and asked Mehta to advise the police.
Mehta said he was willing to tender an apology if there was anything against the court in the press briefing. The court, however, did not pass any order asking the policemen not to share any information with the press.
The state had on Wednesday filed an affidavit in the matter, stating that the arrest of the five activists and lawyers in connection with a meeting on the eve of the January 1 violence was not about curbing dissent or “difference in ideology” but there was “cogent evidence” to show that the arrested persons were “active members” of the banned CPI (Maoist) who “were in the process of creating large-scale violence, destruction of property resulting in chaos”.