While a case is pending in the Supreme Court, Maharashtra police in Gadchiroli district received custody of rights lawyer and Dalit activist Surendra Gadling and poet Varavara Rao on Wednesday following approval by a special court.
Both of them were lodged in Yerawada jail in Pune after they were arrested in June and August 2018 with eight others in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence. They have been accused of colluding with the Maoists to organise a conference in Pune on December 31, 2017.
Gadchiroli police had sought their arrest under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) over their alleged involvement in Surjagadh case of 2016 in which over 74 vehicles were burnt down around Surjagad hills in an alleged Naxal attack.
Reacting to their arrest over 2016 Surjagadh case, senior Supreme Court lawyer and former Additional Solicitor General of India, Indira Jaising termed it “ever-greening of FIRs against human rights activists” and “collapse of the criminal justice system.”
“Our apprehensions of ever greening of charges come true. Will he ever be set free? Supreme Court yet to deliver judgement,” she wrote on Twitter. “#WakeupSupremeCourt ,Why is the Supreme Court sitting tight on the judgement in #BhimaKoregaon , ever-greening of charges has happened as predicted to deny bail, #Bail is a Fundamental right.”
The Bombay High Court on October 24 last year had quashed the Pune Special Court’s order that upheld the 90 days extension to filing of chargesheet against Gadling and other activists arrested in June 2016. The court order was subsequently challenged by the Maharashtra government in the Supreme Court.
Jaising had argued before the Supreme Court on 11 December 2018 that “the police was indulging in ever-greening of FIRs against Surendra Gadling by producing a summon against him in a 2016 FIR.”
She had further stated that, “it is the modus operandi of the police to implicate people in one case after another”.
The Supreme Court, however, has reserved its judgment.
Gadling, a Nagpur based activist, is known for taking up the cases of extra-judicial killings, police excesses besides atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis committed by the State.
Rao is a renowned activist, poet, journalist and literary critic from Telangana. A Marxist critic, Rao has repeatedly slammed neoliberal state in his article and public speeches. He is also said to have founded the Revolutionary Writers' Association, popularly known as Virasam, for propagating Maoist ideology.
The UAPA, according to legal experts, has “draconian procedural provisions” which allow the State to keep people in custody for extended periods of time without bail, which they said, is a fundamental right.