Describing dissent as a safety valve, the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed that the five human rights activists arrested by Maharashtra Police should be kept under house arrest until the next date of hearing on September 6.
In a huge relief to the activists, an apex court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra ordered house arrest on a petition filed by eminent historian Romila Thapar and four others challenging the Tuesday arrests.
Those arrested on Tuesday included Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, Gautam Navlakha in Delhi, Sudha Bharadwaj in Haryana and Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonzalves in Maharashtra
Taking a dim view of the crackdown, Justice DY Chandrachud said: "Dissent is a safety valve of democracy. If it is not allowed, the pressure cooker will burst."
He noted that the arrests had taken place nine months after the activists were linked to the violence at Bhima-Koregaon in Maharashtra.
Talking to reporters, lawyer Prashant Bhushan said the Supreme Court had issued notices to the central and Maharashtra governments.
Those arrested on Tuesday included Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, Gautam Navlakha in Delhi, Sudha Bharadwaj in Haryana and Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonzalves in Maharashtra.
They were to have been taken to Pune but would now be sent home and put under house arrest.