The Supreme Court Monday extended the house arrest of the five activists held in connection with the investigation into the Bhima-Koregaon violence till September 19, when the court will hear the matter next. Five activists — P Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha — were arrested last month for their alleged Maoist link.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra extended the date after the government said it would produce the case diary and other evidence related to the investigation on that day. “Every criminal investigation is based on allegations; We have to see whether there is some material,” the bench said. The bench said if there were some grave lapses, then it may consider the prayers like an investigation by a SIT in the case.
During the hearing, the government objected to the Supreme Court’s hearing in the case. Questioning the way the petitioners directly approached the apex court, the government’s counsel said, “Every case can’t come to the Supreme Court. It is a wrong procedure. They have options to approach the lower court, high courts or even other legal options to seek redressal. What is it that creates doubts in their minds that lower judicial forum won’t hear them? They have not said that courts below are not hearing them.”
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. 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”. On this, CJI Misra said that the court entertained the plea on the foundation of liberty. “Issues like independent enquiry, etc, comes at a later stage,” he said.
Appearing for the petitioners, Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that they had approached the Supreme Court as they needed a court-monitored investigation in the case.
Several people including historian Romila Thapar had filed a petition in the Supreme Court last month challenging the arrests of the activists.
(With inputs from agencies)