Human rights activists Sudha Bhardwaj, Adv. Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves have been sent to judicial custody for 14 days by the Pune Sessions Court today, November 6. While Ferreira and Gonsalves were arrested on October 26, Sudha Bhardwaj was arrested on October 27.
Arun Ferreira alleged in the court that he was beaten up during custodial interrogation. He said that on November 4 around 4 pm, during the interrogation he was punched about 8-10 times by the Investigating Officer (I.O.) Shivaji Pawar. The IO also hit him in the eye. While beating up Ferriera, IO Pawar was asking him questions about Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL). On November 5, he was taken to the Sassoon hospital. Injuries and contusion near eye were noted by the doctors at Sassoon hospital while conducting his medical examination.
Stretching to the very last day of the temporary relief of house arrest granted by the Supreme Court vide order dated September 28, 2018 in Romila Thapar & Ors. v. Union of India, the Sessions court in Pune had rejected the bail applications for Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves on October 26, who were arrested allegedly in the Bhima Koregaon case on August 28, 2018. The Court also rejected the application for extension of house arrest which was due to expire on 26 October 2018.
During the last hearing, on October 27, although the prosecution had pointed to some ‘electronic evidence’ to keep Ferreira and Gonsalves under custody, the Defence counsel had argued that their arrest couldn’t be lawfully correct as they had remained in cusyody for more than 30 days while they were under house arrest. Defence Counsel had also argued that it would be a contempt of court to arrest them before midnight on October 26 as they had been granted relief till October 26.
Afterwards the court sent Ferreira and Gonsalves for ten days police custody till November 6, i.e. today.
The Maharashtra had police raided and arrested several prominent human rights activists in India on August 28. Following this, a writ petition was filed in the SC by eminent Indians such as historian Romila Thapar, economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devaki Jain among others. The SC disposed off the writ petition saying that the activists could avail relief from lower courts as per the law. All five activists-lawyers were under house arrest for a time period until October 26, a time period extended by the Supreme Court allowing them time to seek bail or other remedies in appropriate courts.
More details are awaited