New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its order on the petitions challenging the arrest of five Left-wing activists in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon case. The apex court has also asked the Maharashtra Police to file case diary of its probe in connection with the matter. Furthermore, it has ordered the parties to file their written submissions in the case by September 24.
The court had Wednesday extended the house arrest of the activists by a day till today, saying it would look into the case with a hawk’s eye as liberty cannot be “sacrificed at the altar of conjectures”.
The top court 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.
“Our institutions must be robust enough to accommodate any dissent or opposition to the system or even to this court. We cannot sacrifice liberty at the altar of conjectures,”a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud had said.
In an inconclusive hearing, the top court extended the house arrest of Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha, at their respective homes till September 20.
The plea by historian Romila 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.
During the hearing, the court asked the Maharashtra government to place before it the “best documents available” as most of the material referred by it were “more like conjectures.”
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Maharashtra government referred to the various stages of investigations in the case and the materials which led to the arrest of the five activists.
“As a nation, we should be concerned at this. It is too serious a matter. I request the court to form an opinion only after hearing the matter in full,” Mehta said.
To this, Justice Chandrachud said “Yes, we will do that, but our mind is human” and added “we will look at this case with a hawk’s eye”.
“You have to make a clear-cut distinction between dissent and opposition and attempts to create disturbance, law and order problem, overthrow elected government,” it said.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for complainant Tushar Damgude, said “the court should hear the matter in full as what can be simple today may be complex tomorrow and what is complex today may be simple tomorrow”.
The activists have remained under house arrest after they are arrested by the Maharashtra police on August 28 in connection with an FIR lodged following a conclave — ‘Elgaar Parishad’ — held on December 31 last year that had later triggered violence at Koregaon-Bhima village.
Prominent Telugu poet Rao was arrested on August 28 from Hyderabad, while activists Gonsalves and Ferreira were nabbed from Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bharadwaj from Faridabad in Haryana and civil liberties activist Navlakha from Delhi.
Earlier, the Maharashtra government had filed its response to the plea claiming the five activists were arrested due to the cogent evidence linking them with the banned CPI (Maoist) and not because of their dissenting views.
The state’s response had come in the backdrop of the apex court, while ordering the house arrest of the five activists on August 29, categorically stating that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy”.
The court had questioned the state police’s move to arrest these activists nine months after the incident and said all of them were reputed citizens and “stifling the dissent” was not good.
(With PTI inputs)