The Supreme Court Thursday reserved its order on the petition by historian Romila Thapar and others seeking an independent probe and the release of the five activists held for the alleged link with Maoists. A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud also asked the Maharashtra police to file their case diary pertaining to the probe by Monday. All the sides have also been asked to submit their written notes by September 24.
Trading charges in the Supreme Court with Maharashtra government over the arrest of the activists, Thapar accused the police of “cooking up” the probe and the agency countering by terming her a “stranger” to the litigation. Terming the entire probe as “cooked up”, senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Thapar and four others, referred to three letters and said these were used to “incriminate” the activists.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Maharashtra government, referred to the evidence collected by the agency in its ongoing probe and vehemently urged the court not to interfere with the criminal proceedings and that too, at the behest of the “strangers” in a public interest litigation (PIL).
The five activists — Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha — were arrested by Maharashtra Police on August 28 in connection with an FIR lodged following the Elgaar Parishad event held on December 31 last year that had later triggered violence at Bhima-Koregaon village.
Stating that there should be a clear distinction between opposition and a bid to overthrow the government, the bench had said it would look at the Maharashtra Police’s “material” on the Bhima-Koregaon case with a “hawk’s eye” as liberty cannot be sacrificed at the altar of conjectures.
According to the Maharashtra Police, material recovered from six alleged Maoist cadres arrested before the five were held had thrown up “concrete material requiring and justifying” the arrests. The apex court had earlier slammed the Maharashtra Police for making statements related to the arrests in the press, even as the court proceedings are underway.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Maharashtra, had questioned how the activists had directly approached the Supreme Court. “Every case can’t come to the Supreme Court. It is a wrong procedure. The petitioners, meanwhile, countered that they had moved the Supreme Court seeking a court-monitored investigation in the case.