Former jurists, including former Chief Justice of India R M Lodha, have come out strongly against the arrest of five civil rights activists and lawyers by police probing an alleged Maoist link to the Elgaar Parishad meeting in Pune a day ahead of the January 1 violence in Bhima Koregaon.
Justice Lodha told The Indian Express that the government’s actions are “an attempt to suppress the dissenting voice”.
He said the arrests were “an attack on freedom of speech… and an act to undermine the fundamentals of Constitutional democracy”.
Justice P B Sawant, former judge of the Supreme Court and one of the organisers of the Elgaar Parishad meeting on December 31, 2017, said: “I don’t know why these persons have been arrested. The police are alleging they are connected to the Naxalite movement and are also organisers of the Elgaar conference on December 31 last year. Did they realise this after eight months? I have never seen them. Only one of them, a lady advocate, visited me earlier for some legal advice some time back…. when some other arrests were made, the police had then said that nothing was found to connect them to Naxalites. Now, they are organising another spate of arrests.”
“What can we infer from all this except that the police are acting at the instance of the government. So is there law in the country? Is there democracy or the Constitution prevailing in this country? How do we evaluate this? The state, and I have no doubt the central government is urging them on… They have become desperate and want to divert from all other news in the country,” he said.
On Elgaar Parishad meetings, Justice Sawant said: “We are going to organise more such conferences all over the country, more so because the government and police are after us.”