Skip to main content
Sabrang
Sabrang
Freedom Rule of Law

SC disposes off petition by Romila Thapar and others, turns down plea for a SIT in Bhima Koregaon case

CJP 28 Sep 2018

Justice Chandrachud berates police in his dissenting judgment


Activist arrest
 
The Supreme Court has rejected a plea for a Special Investigation Team (SIT) investigation into the recent activists’ arrests in connection to the Bhima Koregaon case. A Bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, and Justices A. M. Khanwilkar and D. Y. Chandrachud issued the judgement, with Justice Chandrachud offering the dissenting opinion. With this, the petition by prominent historian Romila Thapar and others has been disposed off. The interim relief has been extended by four weeks and the majority of the panel has asked the activists to seek relief from lower courts.
 
The judgement was written by Justice Khanwilkar for himself and Chief Justice Misra; while reading the judgement, Justice Khanwilkar said that the accused persons could not choose which investigating agencies should look into the matter. "He asserted that not a case of arrest because of difference in political organisation," The Quint reported, adding that he "observed that the investigation officers were permitted to continue with the investigation." 
 
The Bench noted that the five arrested activists–Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, and Varavara Rao–would remain under house arrest for the next four weeks, and could seek relief from the trial court. Meanwhile, Justice Chandrachud, in his dissent noted, "Technicalities should not be allowed to override substantive justice. The present petition not motivated by political aspects and extraordinary circumstances are present in the case." He also targeted the Pune Police, criticising them for holding a press meet right after the arrests. "The media meet of the police regarding the investigation cast a doubt on the impartiality of the investigation, Justice Chandrachud maintained. He added that police briefing to media had become a source of manipulating public opinion and an enquiry was required against Maharashtra police officers for utilising the media for the same," The Quint reported. Moreover, he said the Maharashtra police’s actions prompted the question of whether it could be trusted to conduct the investigation; he said that the case was fit and proper for a court-monitored SIT investigation.  
 
The Supreme Court’s verdict comes one month after the five activists were arrested in what seemed to be coordinated raids across the country. A petition was filed by Professor Romila Thapar and others, protesting the "arbitrary" arrests and seeking a court-monitored SIT investigation. The petition sought "appropriate direction calling for an explanation from the state of Maharashtra for this sweeping round of arrests," and said that "The use of draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against these activists who have no history of indulging or instigating any violence is clearly malafide and an attempt to brow beat and intimidate the dissenting voices".  A Supreme Court Bench had previously held that the activists should be held under house arrest until the petition was disposed off.  
 
The petitioners’ counsel, Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi had argued that the arrests blatantly violated procedure, noting that witnesses and search memos were brought in by the Maharashtra police from Pune, and were not local residents. Moreover, the police had publicly alleged that the activists were involved in a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister, but this charge was not mentioned on the FIR and remand applications. "He therefore contended that the attempt was to create a general impression that the activists were terrorists, even though there was no material on record to support such charges," Live Law reported. Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government said it had gathered sufficient evidence to back the activists’ alleged connections to Maoist groups. 
 

 

SC disposes off petition by Romila Thapar and others, turns down plea for a SIT in Bhima Koregaon case

Justice Chandrachud berates police in his dissenting judgment


Activist arrest
 
The Supreme Court has rejected a plea for a Special Investigation Team (SIT) investigation into the recent activists’ arrests in connection to the Bhima Koregaon case. A Bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, and Justices A. M. Khanwilkar and D. Y. Chandrachud issued the judgement, with Justice Chandrachud offering the dissenting opinion. With this, the petition by prominent historian Romila Thapar and others has been disposed off. The interim relief has been extended by four weeks and the majority of the panel has asked the activists to seek relief from lower courts.
 
The judgement was written by Justice Khanwilkar for himself and Chief Justice Misra; while reading the judgement, Justice Khanwilkar said that the accused persons could not choose which investigating agencies should look into the matter. "He asserted that not a case of arrest because of difference in political organisation," The Quint reported, adding that he "observed that the investigation officers were permitted to continue with the investigation." 
 
The Bench noted that the five arrested activists–Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, and Varavara Rao–would remain under house arrest for the next four weeks, and could seek relief from the trial court. Meanwhile, Justice Chandrachud, in his dissent noted, "Technicalities should not be allowed to override substantive justice. The present petition not motivated by political aspects and extraordinary circumstances are present in the case." He also targeted the Pune Police, criticising them for holding a press meet right after the arrests. "The media meet of the police regarding the investigation cast a doubt on the impartiality of the investigation, Justice Chandrachud maintained. He added that police briefing to media had become a source of manipulating public opinion and an enquiry was required against Maharashtra police officers for utilising the media for the same," The Quint reported. Moreover, he said the Maharashtra police’s actions prompted the question of whether it could be trusted to conduct the investigation; he said that the case was fit and proper for a court-monitored SIT investigation.  
 
The Supreme Court’s verdict comes one month after the five activists were arrested in what seemed to be coordinated raids across the country. A petition was filed by Professor Romila Thapar and others, protesting the "arbitrary" arrests and seeking a court-monitored SIT investigation. The petition sought "appropriate direction calling for an explanation from the state of Maharashtra for this sweeping round of arrests," and said that "The use of draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against these activists who have no history of indulging or instigating any violence is clearly malafide and an attempt to brow beat and intimidate the dissenting voices".  A Supreme Court Bench had previously held that the activists should be held under house arrest until the petition was disposed off.  
 
The petitioners’ counsel, Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi had argued that the arrests blatantly violated procedure, noting that witnesses and search memos were brought in by the Maharashtra police from Pune, and were not local residents. Moreover, the police had publicly alleged that the activists were involved in a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister, but this charge was not mentioned on the FIR and remand applications. "He therefore contended that the attempt was to create a general impression that the activists were terrorists, even though there was no material on record to support such charges," Live Law reported. Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government said it had gathered sufficient evidence to back the activists’ alleged connections to Maoist groups. 
 

 

Related Articles

Sunday

03

Jan

Pan-India

Saturday

05

Dec

05 pm onwards

Rise in Rage!

North Gate, JNU campus

Thursday

26

Nov

10 am onwards

Delhi Chalo

Pan India

Theme

Stop Hate

Hate and Harmony in 2021

A recap of all that transpired across India in terms of hate speech and even outright hate crimes, as well as the persecution of those who dared to speak up against hate. This disturbing harvest of hate should now push us to do more to forge harmony.
Taliban 2021

Taliban in Afghanistan: A look back

Communalism Combat had taken a deep dive into the lives of people of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Here we reproduce some of our archives documenting the plight of hapless Afghanis, especially women, who suffered the most under the hardline regime.
2020

Milestones 2020

In the year devastated by the Covid 19 Pandemic, India witnessed apathy against some of its most marginalised people and vilification of dissenters by powerful state and non state actors. As 2020 draws to a close, and hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers continue their protest in the bitter North Indian cold. Read how Indians resisted all attempts to snatch away fundamental and constitutional freedoms.
Migrant Diaries

Migrant Diaries

The 2020 COVID pandemic brought to fore the dismal lives that our migrant workers lead. Read these heartbreaking stories of how they lived before the pandemic, how the lockdown changed their lives and what they’re doing now.

Campaigns

Sunday

03

Jan

Pan-India

Saturday

05

Dec

05 pm onwards

Rise in Rage!

North Gate, JNU campus

Thursday

26

Nov

10 am onwards

Delhi Chalo

Pan India

Videos

Labour

Why are Anganwadi Workers protesting in Bengal

Anganwadi Workers and helpers have launched protest in Bengal demanding higher wages, compensation and recognition as government workers. Listen to some of these Anganwadi workers’ plight from Malda, Bengal.

Labour

Why are Anganwadi Workers protesting in Bengal

Anganwadi Workers and helpers have launched protest in Bengal demanding higher wages, compensation and recognition as government workers. Listen to some of these Anganwadi workers’ plight from Malda, Bengal.

IN FACT

Analysis

Stop Hate

Hate and Harmony in 2021

A recap of all that transpired across India in terms of hate speech and even outright hate crimes, as well as the persecution of those who dared to speak up against hate. This disturbing harvest of hate should now push us to do more to forge harmony.
Taliban 2021

Taliban in Afghanistan: A look back

Communalism Combat had taken a deep dive into the lives of people of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Here we reproduce some of our archives documenting the plight of hapless Afghanis, especially women, who suffered the most under the hardline regime.
2020

Milestones 2020

In the year devastated by the Covid 19 Pandemic, India witnessed apathy against some of its most marginalised people and vilification of dissenters by powerful state and non state actors. As 2020 draws to a close, and hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers continue their protest in the bitter North Indian cold. Read how Indians resisted all attempts to snatch away fundamental and constitutional freedoms.
Migrant Diaries

Migrant Diaries

The 2020 COVID pandemic brought to fore the dismal lives that our migrant workers lead. Read these heartbreaking stories of how they lived before the pandemic, how the lockdown changed their lives and what they’re doing now.

Archives