The Supreme Court on Thursday, September 20 reserved its verdict on a plea by historian Romila Thapar and others seeking the immediate release of rights activists in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima violence case and a Special Investigation Team probe into their arrest.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, reserved the judgment after counsel for both parties including senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Harish Salve and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta concluded their submissions.
The bench, also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, asked the Maharashtra Police to file their entire case diary pertaining to the ongoing investigation in the case by Monday, September 24. It also asked all parties to file their written submissions by then.
The five activists—Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha—are under arrest at their respective homes since August 29.
The plea by Thapar and economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devaki Jain, sociology professor Satish Deshpande and human rights lawyer Maja Daruwala has sought an independent probe into the arrests and the immediate release of the five activists.
“The letters allegedly written by Rona Wilson and Sudha Bharadwaj are in Hindi, but have several Marathi words. These are words which only Maharashtrians use,” submitted defence lawyer Anand Grover, adding, “ That is why I am saying this case is cooked up”
The Maharashtra police had arrested the rights activists on August 28 in connection with an FIR lodged following the Elgaar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31 last year, that had allegedly later triggered violence at Koregaon-Bhima village.
The apex court had said on September 19 that it would look into the case with a hawk's eye as liberty cannot be "sacrificed at the altar of conjectures". It had told the Maharashtra government that there should be a clear-cut distinction between opposition and dissent on one hand and attempts to create disturbance, law and order problems or overthrow the government on the other.
Senior advocate Anand Grover, Ashwini Kumar and advocate Prashant Bhushan also alleged that the entire case was cooked up and adequate safeguards should be provided to protect the liberty of five activists.
Arguing before the bench, advocates Anand Grover and Vrinda Grover questioned the presence of Marathi words in the purported letters written by non-Marathi speaking accused activists. “The letters allegedly written by Rona Wilson and Sudha Bharadwaj are in Hindi, but have several Marathi words. These are words which only Maharashtrians use,” submitted Anand Grover, adding, “ That is why I am saying this case is cooked up.”
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, arguing for the petitioners, historian Romila Thapar and others, stated: “Republic TV channel having special access, was sent legal notice by Sudha Bharadwaj for attributing a letter written by her. In response to the notice, Republic replied they got it from confidential sources.”
“Maoist plot isn't mentioned in any FIR. The entire experience by Maharashtra Police is to rope in the people ex post facto,” he argued before the court, adding that his clients were nowhere in the FIR.
Senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for the complainant in the Bhima Koregan case, said that the demand for SIT wasn't called for. “SIT comes when investigation is capable of being derail. Unless court finds investigation is baseless, no reason to order SIT,” he added.
The apex court had earlier said that it may order an SIT probe if it found that the evidence has been "cooked up".
With PTI inputs