Prasenjit Das, Editor in Chief India –
The Supreme Court on Thursday extended till 12 September the house arrest of the five human rights activists in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence, while coming down heavily on a senior Pune Police officer for making “insinuations” about the apex court.
The matter has been adjourned and will now be heard again that day.
The Supreme Court hearing was based on a petition filed by historian Romila Thapar and economist Prabhat Patnaik seeking the release of the five activists.
The top court had on 30 August observed that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy” and directed that the activists —Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao—be kept under house arrest.
On 28 August, Pune Police arrested the five in connection with the violence that had erupted in Maharashtra’s Bhima-Koregaon in January.
Justice D.Y. Chandrachud came down heavily on the Maharashtra Police and informed additional solicitor general (ASG) Tushar Mehta on Thursday that the assistant commissioner of police (Pune) had “insinuated” that the apex court “should not have intervened” in the current stage of the case. Chandrachud said the police officer “has no business saying that”.
Mehta said that keeping the activists under house arrest would hamper the investigation in the case. Mehta also opposed Thapar’s petition and said that “third parties” did not have the right to file a petition in an on-going investigation. The charges against the five arrested activists were “serious”, he said.
The apex court had on 29 August while hearing the matter ordered that five human rights activists arrested by Pune Police from across the country on charges of involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon violence, be kept under house arrest, staying the force’s attempts to move them to Pune.
In a series of coordinated raids across the country, Pune Police arrested poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, civil rights activist and author Anand Teltumbde in Goa, national secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad, human rights activists Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves in Mumbai, journalist and former PUCL secretary Gautam Navlakha in Delhi, and tribal rights activist Stan Swamy in Ranchi.