New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to interfere in the arrest of five left-wing activists Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence case. Dismissing the plea for an SIT investigation, the top court said that Maharashtra police could continue with its probe. Also Read - Coronavirus in Maharashtra: 11 CISF Jawans Posted at Mumbai Airport Test Positive For COVID-19
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, also comprising Justices AM Khaniwlkar and DY Chandrachud, extended the house arrest of the activists for another four weeks. Hearing the plea, Khanwilkar said it wasn’t a case of arrest due to dissent. The court also refused to constitute an SIT and asked the Pune police to go ahead with the probe. Also Read - Amid Lockdown, Supreme Court Issues Notice to Centre on Plea Seeking Payment of Wages to Migrant Workers
What happened so far?
The top court had on September 20 reserved its order on the petition by historian Romila Thapar and others seeking the immediate release of the activists and an SIT probe into their arrest.
The bench had then asked the Maharashtra police to file its case diary pertaining to the ongoing investigation in the case by September 24.
The Maharashtra police had arrested the rights activists on August 28 in connection with an FIR lodged following a conclave — Elgaar Parishad — on December 31 last year that had later triggered violence at Koregaon-Bhima village. Since then, the activists are under arrest at their respective homes.
Questioning the veracity of the evidence produced by the Maharashtra Police on the arrests, the court had said it may also consider setting up a special investigation team (SIT) for a probe into the activists’ arrests if the prima facie ground is established against their involvement.
The court also hinted at quashing the case if the evidence against the arrested activists proved to be cooked up by Maharashtra Police.
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.
The 200th anniversary of Bhima-Koregaon battle took a violent turn in January earlier this year when a youth died in clashes during an event to mark the day. The violence erupted when at least five lakh members of the Dalit community gathered in villages around Bhima Koregaon near Pune to attend an event commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon. The violence left one dead and several injured, including 10 policemen.