SC refuses to drop Romila Thapar’s petition in Bhima Koregaon case

Maharashtra Police and complainants’ plea that Romila Thapar and others were strangers to the case and that detenus under ‘ House Arrest’ were destroying evidence cut no ice with the court on Thursday

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The Supreme Court on Thursday turned down the plea of Maharashtra Police and complainants in the Bhima Koregaon case that the petition of Romila Thapar and others against the arbitrary arrest of five well-known activists be dismissed because the petitioners are strangers to the case and have no locus.

The Supreme Court also extended the ‘house arrest’ of five activists including Sudha Bhardwaj, prominent human rights lawyer, and activists Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao and Arun Fereira, who Maharashtra police wanted to produce before a Pune court.

All the five detenus in a signed affidavit had submitted to the Supreme Court that the petition filed by historian Romila Thapar and others be deemed to have been filed on their behalf. However, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Harish Salve pleaded that the Supreme Court should not set a precedent by allowing strangers to approach the court and by hearing bail matters that should be left to the subordinate judiciary.

The ASG vehemently alleged that the detenus were destroying evidence and continued house arrest would damage the investigation. Senior Counsel Abhishek Singhvi responded by referring to selective leaks of fabricated documents/letters by the police.

Justice Chandrachud said the police had no business to address the media when the Supreme Court was seized with the matter.

The court decided to hear the case on merit on September 12. Senior Counsel Indira Jaising drew the court’s attention to Maharashtra Police holding press briefings on a daily basis. “ Yesterday also they released a letter that was flaunted on Republic TV,” said Jaising, who wanted an injunction on such behaviour.

Justice Chandrachud agreed with Jaising and asked the counsel of Maharashtra Police Mehta to tell the police officers to be more responsible. “The matter is before us now and we don’t want the Police to be telling us that we are wrong.”

Justice Chandrachud added that he watched the Press briefing held by the Pune Police in this regard and strongly objected to it.

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