Sheer Contempt of High Court, alleges Advocate Vrinda Grover
In a shocking breach of law and procedure, in fact out and out contempt of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, the Pune police thwarted the stay granted against the transit remand of Sudha Bhardwaj and till well past midnight attempted to forcibly whisk her away to Pune!
Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, renowned for her committed advocacy on the democratic rights of workers and Adivasis was first ‘detained’, then ‘arrested’ following a Panch document shown to her in Marathi (a language she cannot comprehend) in the early hours of Tuesday, August 28. Neither the warrant for her arrest nor the FIR were given to her in the language that she could read. She was with her young daughter, alone in her residence at the time. The police seized her laptop, pen drive, and external hard drives leading to genuine fears of “their tampering with data.”
Finally, when advocate Vrinda Grover apprised the local CJM (Chief Judicial magistrate) of the HC Order, around midnight, did he pass the Order restoring house arrest. As of now, advocate Sudha Bharadwaj cannot be taken out of Haryana till August 30. She is under house arrest in her home in Badarpur.
Video of Vrinda Grover may be heard here.
Status Report on Midnight Drama
Till 12 midnight, Sudha Bhardwaj was heldin a Toyota Innova stationed on the dark road outside the house of the CJM in sector 15A, Faridabad. The roads in the area were very dark and dimly lit. The Pune Police and Surajkund Police were called into the house of the learned CJM. After some persuasion the counsels representing Sudha Bhardwaj were also allowed into the CJM house. Advocate Vrinda Grover was first asked to make her submissions in the driveway of the house itself.
After addressing the CJM briefly, she requested the CJM to permit her to make her full submissions in a proper manner as the driveway was dark and it was impossible to show any documents. The CJM then invited all the counsels to wait inside the house. Advocate Vrinda Grover further informed the learned CJM that some applications need to be presented.
The CJM stated that he was informed that the Chandigarh HIgh Court had passed an order in the case of Sudha Bharadwaj. The CJM had, until then, still to hear the counsel on behalf of Sudha Bharadwaj, both on facts and on Law. Thereafter, the CJM then went to the residence of the district judge for advice on the matter. It was midnight and the counsel werewaiting at the residence of the CJM while Sudha Bharadwaj was being detained in a vehicle on the road. Finally, then the CJM passed the Order that may be read here.
The issue brings to light the sheer coercive powers used by the Pune Police in the wake of the High Court Order. On the evening of August 28, after arguments placed by senior advocates, RS Bains assisted by advocates Arjun Sheoran, the Chandigarh HC (Punjab and Haryana) passed an order that was unequivocal. The High Court Order may be read here:
What is even more shocking in this chain of events is the fact that advocate Vrinda Grover had been in close touch with Inspector Shinde from the posse of the Pune police informing him of the developments in the court. Yet, the Pune Police in its wisdom chose to act in what can only be termed as not just high-handed but a complete contempt of the High Court.
The communication between advocate Vrinda Grover and Inspector Shinde may be read here:
Sudha Bharadwaj's lawyer Vrinda Grover writes to the Pune police:
Please note that I have communicated the Punjab and Haryana HC order re Sudha Bharadwaj via whatsapp, SMS and orally over teleconference. The order directs that Sudha Bharadwaj be kept under house arrest at her house near Badarpur border. In my teleconference, you have just informed me that you do not know where Sudha Bharadwaj has been taken. I am informed that you are not taking her to Badarpur to her residence. I have again reiterated to you that this would be in brazen breach of the HC order. Despite my repeatedly inquiring from you about the whereabouts of my client Sudha Bharadwaj, you have refused to inform me where she is being taken, except to say that she is in another car, not in your supervision.
You are, as a police officer, required to follow the HC order.
Advocate for Sudha Bharadwaj
The question that must arise in 21st century India is are we living under Police Raj or the Rule of Law?
The Habeas Corpus Petition may be read here.
Sudha Bharadwaj is only one among those arrested. Widespread condemnation and protests of the countrywide swoop down and arrests on lawyers, academics and activists have greeted this latest ploy of the government. While the actions are that of the Pune Police that falls under the Maharashtra government, the fact that three or four states are involved, especially BJP ruled states is a matter of note and concern.
“A Joint Statement issued by over four dozen Indians, ‘Arrests of Activists Regimes Ploy to Invent False Enemy, Divert Attention from SanatanSanstha Role in Rationalists’ Murders’ indicates the motives that may lie behind this state reprisal:
The so-called raids carried out on the houses of these activists are aimed at creating a spectacle, as the writings and views of these intellectuals are already publicly known and are well documented. This seems like a conspiracy to divert attention from the gravity of the SanatanSanstha conspiracy to carry out serial bomb attacks on Eid and Ganesh Chaturthi! The same SanatanSanstha was also involved in the murder of GauriLankesh, as per the ongoing investigations by Karnataka police. Today’s arrests have been carried out in order to give cover to the murderers of GauriLankesh. People like SudhaBharadwaj, GautamNavlakha and others who have been arrested are friends of the people who have dedicated their entire lives to the betterment of the Indian public. By arresting them, the BJP is only exposing its insecurities and its intolerance to any dissent or criticism of its policies.”