The Kerala High Court on Friday said that being a Maoist is not a crime and that a person cannot be arrested merely because he is one.
Acting on a writ petition filed by Shyam Balakrishnan, who alleged he was illegally picked up by the Kerala police last year on suspicion of being a Maoist, the bench of Justice Muahmmed Mustaque said a person could be arrested only if he is involved in unlawful activities.
“Being a Maoist is no crime. Freedom of thought and liberty of conscience is a natural right. Freedom becomes unlawful only when it concerns the physical law of the State,” said the judge.
The court asked the state government to pay Balakrishnan Rs 1 lakh as compensation and Rs 10,000 as litigation cost.
Balakrishnan, a native of Wayanad, was taken into custody by the Thunderbolt — a special wing of the Kerala police meant to tackle Maoists — on May 20, 2014, when he was riding a two-wheeler. Police allegedly stopped the bike and took him into custody, based on information received from “local intelligence sources”.
Balakrishnan alleged he was taken to the police station and police later raided his house and seized his laptop and mobile phone.
Balakrishnan, who was released nine hours later, also alleged he was tortured by the police, who wanted information about the identities of some of his friends.
Balakrishnan later moved the high court against the police, claiming that the police action infringed on Article 21 of the Constitution.
Balakrishnan, a student of philosophy who does organic farming in his village, is the son of retired judge Balakrishnan Nair.
Claiming that he is not a Maoist, he said, “I moved the court mainly against human rights violations. But Maoists are using the court verdict to their advantage. My only concern is the violation of rights.”
He claimed that some people from his village in Wayanad suspected his friend and his wife were Maoists, and alerted the police. “Police could have verified their identity. Instead, they kept me in custody for several hours and raided my house. There should be a procedure for the police to deal with such situations,” he said.
Kerala police routinely arrest people with suspected Maoist links. Last month, three activists of the Revolutionary Democratic Front, a suspected pro-Maoist outfit, were arrested after they were found distributing pamphlets supporting ultra-Left ideology.