The Supreme Court Friday refused to interfere with the arrest of the five activists in Elgaar Parishad case and rejected the demand for a court-monitored probe in the matter. The five activists — Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, and Gautam Navlakha — will continue to remain under house arrest for four more weeks. The court, however, said they move the trial court for relief.
The activists have been under house arrest since the Maharashtra Police arrested them on August 28 while probing an alleged Maoist link to a meeting of the Elgaar Parishad in Pune on the eve of the January 1 violence in Bhima Koregaon.
In a 2-1 verdict, the three-judge bench rejected the petition seeking the release of activists, saying the arrests were not due to “dissent and differences in ideology.”
Justice Chandrachud, who had a dissenting view, said the case warranted a need for “court-monitored probe.” Adding that Pune police’s press conference and conduct creates an impression that the probe is unfair, he said, “deprivation of liberty cannot be compensated later.” “Police’s selective disclosure casts a cloud on the fair probe,” he said referring to the alleged letter of Sudha Bharadwaj that the police had produced.
While the initial arrests of the activists were made in connection with their role in the Elgaar Parishad event, the Pune police said the probe had later expanded to look at the “larger conspiracies being hatched by banned outfits.”
Welcoming the Supreme court’s stand, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the decision of the top court proved that there was no conspiracy behind the arrest of activists by State police, according to PTI.
“The Supreme Court has vindicated the state of the government and the Pune police. The court has no doubt over the material evidence submitted,” the chief minister said. “A lot of things were said against the police after the arrest and an atmosphere was created by pseudo, so-called neo-liberals in the media that the arrests have been made without evidence. The police had to say that the arrests were not motivated but backed by real and powerful evidence.”
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 petitioners had argued that the arrests were “random” and made to “stifle dissent.” The plea filed by historian Romila Thapar, economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devaki Jain, sociology professor Satish Deshpande and human rights lawyer Maja Daruwala, has sought an independent probe into the arrests and the immediate release of the activists. The apex court had also said it may order a SIT probe if it found that the evidence has been “cooked up”.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines