In a post-midnight development, the Gujarat High Court directed the state government to find Hardik Patel, leader of the reservation agitation, after an aide moved a habeas corpus petition alleging that Hardik had been illegally detained by police.
In a rare move, a division comprising justices MR Shah and K J Thaker heard the petition at 1.20 am with Hardik's aide Dinesh Patel seeking court's intervention to direct authorities to produce Hardik.
Police had earlier claimed that Hardik had given them a slip when they went to detain him after he organised a public meeting allegedly without prior permission in Aravali district.
The court issued notice to the Gujarat government, director general of police, range inspector general and Arvali district superintendent of police directing them to file reply on Thursday.
Public prosecutor Mitesh Amin said Hardik was not in police custody. However, the high court asked the state government to find Hardik saying "he is a citizen of the country".
The hearing conducted at the residence of one of the two judges concluded at 2.40 am.
The petitioner submitted that he was with Hardik when the police tried to detain the 22-year-old leader. He alleged that Hardik must have been in police custody.
Advocate B M Mangukiya who appeared for Patel had earlier moved the plea before the registrar general after obtaining permission from acting chief justice Jayant Patel for conducting special hearing early this morning.
Hardik had yesterday organised a public meeting in Bayad taluka of Aravali district allegedly without prior permission. After the meeting, police tried to detain him but according to IG Hasmukh Patel he managed to evade them.
Police later registered an FIR against Hardik and 20 others for violating prohibitory orders.
Hardik is leading an agitation for inclusion of Patel community in OBC category for reservation.