After the Supreme Court extended the house arrest of five activists arrested for their alleged involvement in instigating the Bhima Koregaon violence, and granted them four weeks to seek relief from lower courts, the Delhi High Court has set aside activist Gautam Navlakha’s transit remand. He was also released from house arrest shortly after the HC order.
Five prominent civil society members Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Fereira were arrested by the Pune Police in a nationwide crackdown on dissent on September 28, 2018. Many legal provisions and procedures were flouted with impunity as police conducted coordinated raids in different states. Their allegations against the activists ranged from them being Maoists plotting to overthrow the government, to masterminded the Bhima Koregaon violence to even plotting to kill the Prime Minister! This was just like the first wave of raids that took place in June, 2018.
The Pune Police moved local courts to get transit remand for the arrested activists to take them to Pune for further investigation. But prominent civil society voices intervened on behalf of the arrested activists. Historian Romila Thapar, academic Devaki Jain, left economist and professor Prabhat Patnaik, professor of Sociology Satish Deshpande and human rights lawyer, Maja Daruwala moved the SC urging an intervention and seeking an explanation from the Maharashtra government on the recent spate of arrests of lawyers, academics and activists. The Bench responded to this petition saying “Dissent is the safety valve of democracy and if you don’t allow these safety valves it will burst.” The SC then directed the arrested activists to be placed under house arrest.
In wake of the SC order of September 28, which disposed of the petition by Romila Thapar and others, Gautam Navlakha sought relief from the Delhi High Court on October 1. Navlakha is viewed as a principled dissenter and known for his concern for the welfare of the oppressed and marginalised. His arrest was viewed as a political ploy.
After his transit remand was stayed by the Delhi HC, he was released from house arrest by the Delhi Police.