In a major setback to the authorities, particularly Maharashtra Police, the Supreme Court ordered that the five human right activists arrested in Bhima-Khoregaon case be kept under house arrest till September 6, the date of next hearing.
The apex court said that dissent is the safety valve of democracy and “if you don’t allow the safety valve it will burst”. The three member bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Mishra and comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud questioned the Maharashtra police for arresting these human rights activists nine months after the Bhima-Khoregaon incident.
The top court also sent notices to the Maharashtra government and state police on the plea filed by intellectuals Promila Thapar, Prabhat Patnaik and Devika Jain, among others, against the arrest of these rights defenders .
Maharashtra police on Tuesday, conducted nationwide raids on the homes of prominent Left wing human rights activists and arrested 5 of them sparking anger and outrage from Human Rights defenders. These raids were part of the probe into the violence after the Elgar Parishad held last December.
Violence had erupted between the Dalits and Peshwas at Koregaon - Bhima near Pune then. Prominent citizens headed by academician Romilla Thapar, Human Right activists Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande , Maya Darnall and Devika Jain moved the Supreme Court on Wednesday against arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders.
Senior advocate, Abhishekh Manu Singhvi representing the petitioners mentioned the matter before a Constitution bench of Chief Justice Dipak Mishra and Justices Sanjay Kishen Kaul, Kurian Joseph, Rohinton Nariman and Indu Malhotra. The bench had assembled to hear the reservations in promotions matter.
The plea before the apex court is to seek an independent probe. Chief Justice Dipak MIshra asked Singhvi to mention before the regular court at 3.45 PM. On Tuesday, searches were carried out at the homes of Varavara Rao, Telugu poet, in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Farreira in Mumbai, Trade union activist Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha in New Delhi. They were arrested under IPC Section153[A] which relates to promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language and committing acts prejudicial to maintaining harmony. Raids in the different cities took place almost simultaneously.
Soon after Gautam Navalakha’s arrest, the Delhi High Court ordered the police not to take him out of the national capital till Wednesday. The High Court was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by his advocate Warisha Farasat after Navalakha was picked up by the Delhi police from his home.
Other activists whose houses were raided but not arrested include Susan Abraham in Mumbai, Kranthi Tekula in Telengana, Father Stan Swamy in Ranchi and Anand Teltumbde in Goa. This is the second crackdown by the police on Maoist sympathizers within a span of 3 months. In those raids police had arrested 5 of them for making provocative speeches at the Elgar Parishad which allegedly sparked the violence that followed.
The police had produced in court letters allegedly recovered from those arrested which mentioned a plot to kill PM Modi.