The petitioners seeking an SIT to probe the arrest of five activists by Maharashtra Police said on Friday that the Supreme Court had “for the time being” not “jeopardised” the “liberty and dignity of the five human rights activists” after the verdict.
A three-judge bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra, in a 2:1 verdict, refused the plea filed by historian Romila Thapar and others seeking a Special Investigation Team to probe the arrest of Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves. The petitioners said their stand found “vindication” in the dissenting opinion expressed by Justice D Y Chandrachud.
“Our stand in this case finds vindication in the dissenting opinion of J. Dr. DY Chandrachud, who has categorically held that liberty cannot be sacrificed at the altar of conjecture, and that the police had been taking liberties with the truth and besmirching the reputation of the activists by doing a media trial. Under such circumstances, the police’s ability to conduct a free, fair and impartial investigation is in serious doubt, as has been held by J. Dr. DY Chandrachud,” Thapar read out from a statement signed by all five petitioners — Thapar, Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande, Devaki Jain and Maja Daruwala — at the Press Club of India.
“We, the Petitioners, are pleased to note that at least the liberty and dignity of the human rights activists has for the time being not been jeopardised and the Supreme Court has protected the same,” she said.
Vrinda Grover, their lawyer, said, “There is clearly a fractured verdict… However, even the majority judgment considers it a case where the liberty should be protected and therefore they have been given four weeks to seek legal remedy from the appropriate court.”
Patnaik said the court took cognizance of the fact that it was a matter of constitutional rights. “If the Supreme Court was of the view that these people were Maoists, why did the SC give them four weeks of house arrest, instead of putting them in jail straightaway? For the simple reason that even in the SC there is a certain ambiguity that you cannot treat them as criminals,” he said.
Daruwala said, “The police have received no go-ahead to make arrests, they have received a go-ahead to do their investigation in a legal way, not to harass or make unnecessary incarcerations.” The statement said their aim through the petition was to “draw the attention of the judiciary to what we believe is a case of gross misuse of the state’s powers under draconian laws like the UAPA”.
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