Bhima Koregaon Activists’ Arrest: Supreme Court rejects demand for SIT probe

bhima koregaon

New Delhi, Sep 28 : The Supreme Court on Friday refused to grant relief to five rights activists under house arrest for their alleged links to Maoist rebels, clearing the way for the Maharashtra police to investigate them.

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court has refused to interfere in the arrests of five rights activists in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case in a 2:1 verdict.

The activists will remain under house arrest for four more weeks and can apply for bail in the trial court.It also rejected demands for a special investigation team.The five activists-Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj, and Gautam Navlakha were arrested on 28 August by  Maharashtra Police 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 in the state.

“Accused can resort to legal remedy as per law,” said the court.

The Supreme Court, however, extended the house arrest of the activists. Justice Chandrachud dissented with the majority verdict.

The five activists remain under house arrest since 29 August as directed by the apex court and they do not have access to mobile phones or communication media such as the Internet, landline telephones etc.

Historian Romila Thapar and others  moved a petition in the Supreme Court seeking the immediate release of five rights activists in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima violence case and an SIT probe into their arrest.

The Supreme Court, while hearing a petition filed by historian Romila Thapar and others, on August 29 ordered the activists be kept under house arrest.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra had reserved the judgment on September 20 after counsel for both parties, including senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Harish Salve and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, concluded their submissions.

The bench, that also comprised Justices A M Khaniwlkar and D Y Chandrachud, had asked the Maharashtra police to file their case diary pertaining to the ongoing investigation in the case.

Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra had observed that we are not going to any extreme propagation, but wanted to see whether the case is connected to Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) or article 32 of the Indian Constitution.

Senior Lawyer Tushar Mehta,appearing for Maharashtra government argued before the Supreme Court,  ‘The accused persons have not only been arrested for their alleged involvement in the case but they also seem to be disrupting peace in the country.’

“Many alleged incriminating documents were also recovered from the accused during raids,”Tushar Mehta, has opposed the petition filed regarding the arrests of the activists.

He further said that the people who filed the petition are neither related to the case and “have no idea about it”.

“They (the arrested activists) are involved in not only planning and preparing for violence but were in the process of creating large-scale violence, destruction of property resulting into chaos in the society as per the agenda prepared by the Communist Party of India (Maoist),” the affidavit issued by the Maharashtra Government said.

The affidavit also claimed that the arrests made after the multiple raids across the country were of “active members of the banned terrorist organisation Communist Party of India (Maoist)”.

Another “fact-finding” committee that was constituted, had said that the attacks on January 1 were “pre-planned”. The masterminds were right-wing activists Sambhaji Bhide, and Milind Ekbote.

 

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