Bhima-Koregaon case: House arrest of 5 activists to continue, SC rejects SIT probe

SC refused to interfere with the arrest of five rights activists by Maharashtra Police in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence case and declined to appoint a SIT for probe into their arrest

Bhima-Koregaon case: House arrest of 5 activists to continue, SC rejects SIT probe

PTI

The Supreme Court on Friday, September 28, refused to interfere with the arrest of five rights activists by Maharashtra Police in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence case and declined to appoint a SIT for probe into their arrest.

The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, in a 2:1 verdict, rejected the plea seeking the immediate release of the five activists.

The five — Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha — were picked up in August by Pune police in connection with a probe into the violence in Bhima Koregaon.

Justice AM Khanwilkar read out the verdict for himself and the CJI, while Justice DY Chandrachud said he was unable to agree with view of the two judges.

Justice Chandrachud said liberty cherished by the Constitution would have no meaning if persecution of the five activists is allowed without proper investigation. He said the petition was genuine and lashes out at Maharashtra police for press meet, distribution of letters to media.

Justice Chandrachud said arrest of the five accused was an attempt by state to muzzle dissent.

The majority verdict said the protection of house arrest shall remain in force for four weeks to enable the accused to seek appropriate legal remedy at appropriate legal forum.

The CJI said arrests were not because of dissent of activists but there was prima facie material to show their link with banned CPI (Maoists) organisation.

Justice Khanwilkar said accused persons cannot choose which investigating agency should probe the case and this was not a case of arrest merely because of difference in political views. He said the protection of house arrest shall remain in force for four weeks to enable the accused to seek legal remedy.

He refrained from commenting on the case saying it may prejudice case of accused and prosecution.

The majority verdict disagreed with the PIL by historian Romila Thapar and others seeking the immediate release of five rights activist, with liberty to the accused to seek remedy in appropriate court.

Justice Chandrachud said liberty cherished by the Constitution would have no meaning if persecution of the five activists is allowed without proper investigation.

He said the petition was genuine and lashes out at Maharashtra police for press meet, distribution of letters to media.

Reacting to the judgement, Vrinda Grover, who was representing the five activists, said “This is a disappointing judgement, but it is important to remember that the house arrest of the five activists have been extended for another month. We have time to reach out to the appropriate court, including the high courts. Justice Chandrachud’s dissenting judgement is important as it validates all our concerns.”

Inputs by NH Web Desk

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