SC castigates Police, extends House Arrest of Activists

The Supreme Court hearing the petition challenging arrest of five human rights activists has come down heavily on the police for insinuating that the court should not have interfered with the police investigation. “Justice DY Chandrachud tore into the police for casting aspersions on Supreme Court,” said Lara Jesani, PUCL activist and Bombay High Court lawyer. “I saw Assistant Police Commissioner, Pune insinuating that SC should not have intervened at this stage. He has no business telling that”, Justice Chandrachud said to Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. He also slammed the police for “ruining people’s reputation.”

Pune Police

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud was hearing the matter today.  Adjourning the case till Wednesday, September 12 the SC directed that the activists also remain under house arrest till then.

Senior Advocate Harish Salve appeared for complainant in Supreme Court and said Magistrate should hear the matter. The counsel appearing for petitioners however, asked for “an independent enquiry [into the matter] by a Special Investigation Team constituted by the court.”

The ASG said, “third parties have no right to file the petition”, according to Live Law. He reportedly, also said, “Rushing to Supreme Court in such matters will create a bad precedent,” and that “law should take its own course.”

Earlier, prominent Indians from across the political spectrum, historian Romila Thapar, academic Devaki Jain, left economist, professor Prabhat Patnaik, professor of sociology Satish Deshpande and human rights lawyer, Maja Daruwala had approached the SC urging that the highest court intervene and seek an explanation from the Maharashtra government on the recent spate of arrests of lawyers, academics and activists. The petition had argued that the five persons arrested [and currently under house arrest] were persons of eminence and noted human rights activists merely exercising their right to dissent. The petition stated that none of the persons arrested were even present at the Bhima Koregaon rally (or meeting) held in Bhima Koregaon and Pune respectively on December 31, 2017 and January 2018. The deliberate inclusion of the draconian provisions of the UAPA are meant only to deny basic freedoms and terrorise the populations, the SC was told.

In the first hearing on the petition on August 29, the court had asked the Maharashtra state government to respond to the petition and also asked for allegations and materials against the accused. It had also permitted the accused to file rejoinders and adjourned the matter till September 6.

The Maharashtra government had filed a counter affidavit on September 5 in the matter concerning the arrests of five intellectuals/activists allegedly in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence asking to send them to police custody wanting to interrogate them “in accordance with law” It also claimed that the five arrested activists were planning “large scale violence.” The police had accused them of having connections with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

The police, in its affidavit had also said that Elgaar was a “corrupted” version of Yalgaar, which means attack. Interestingly, the police’s affidavit found no mention of the much hyped and highly questionable ‘letters’ which were flashed in the media immediately in the aftermath of the arrest. The letters were said to have mentioned some “PM assassination plot.” None of this was mentioned in the affidavit and the police repeatedly said they had found ‘incriminating evidence’ during the video-graphed search operations from activists’ place. But the contents of this evidence has not been mentioned so far.

Calling Romila Thapar and the other four petitioners “strangers” and unconnected to the case, the affidavit had said that the writ petition filed was not maintainable either under Article 32 of the Constitution of India or otherwise.

Meanwhile, Senior Counsel and Supreme Court Lawyer Indira Jaisingh has got the permission to file petition for house arrest of Surendra Gadling on behalf of his wife.



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