New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed that the five arrested activists — Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bhardwaj and Gautam Navlakha – arrested by Pune Police on Tuesday, be kept under house arrest till September 6. Also Read - COVID-19 Lockdown: Supreme Court to Hear Plea on Migrant Workers on Monday
The top court’s order came while hearing a plea filed by eminent activists and lawyers, including Romila Thapar, Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande, Maya Darnall and one other person challenging the pan India raids and arrests of rights activists. Also Read - Amid Lockdown, Supreme Court Grants Rs 4 Lakh to Woman Rendered Homeless
The court also issued notice to Maharashtra government and state police seeking their response on the arrests by September 5. Also Read - COVID-19: As Country Goes Into Lockdown Mode, SC to Conduct Hearings Via Video Conferencing
“Dissent is the “safety valve of democracy”. If you don’t allow these safety valves, it will burst,” observed the Supreme Court.
The counsel, appearing for Maharashtra, raised the issue of maintainability of the plea, saying a “stranger” cannot seek relief for the activists who have already approached the high courts.
Earlier today, The petition against the arrest of the activists was mentioned before a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra which agreed to give an urgent hearing today itself.
Meanwhile, Delhi High Court, said it will examine the legality of Maharashtra Police’s action to arrest Left-wing rights activist Gautam Navlakha and the transit remand order to take him to a Pune court.
The court also observed that even if all other arrests in the matter were found to be valid, it would not lend validity to the arrest of Navlakha.
The Maharashtra Police wanted to arrest Navlakha and take him to Pune in connection with an FIR lodged there following an event — ‘Elgaar Parishad’ (conclave) — held on December 31 last year that had triggered violence at Koregaon-Bhima village.
A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel also wondered how the magisterial court could have applied its mind to issue a transit remand order without the translated documents.
Navlakha was arrested yesterday following searches in several cities and the arrest of five activists, including him. A transit remand was also secured from Saket district court in South Delhi to take him to Pune. This order was later stayed by the high court.
Apart from Navlakha, four other activists Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bhardwaj were arrested in near simultaneous raids conducted by Pune Police across the country.
The raids were carried out as part of a probe into the violence between Dalits and the upper caste Peshwas at Koregaon-Bhima village near Pune after an event called Elgar Parishad, or conclave, on December 31 last year.
Security officials said two letters recovered over the past few months, indicating Maoist plans to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, were also a reason for the raids.