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‘Dissent is symbol of vibrant democracy’: Justice Chandrachud on activists’ arrest case

Dissent is a symbol of “vibrant democracy” and voices in opposition cannot be “muzzled” by persecuting those who take up unpopular causes, Justice DY Chandrachud of the Supreme Court said Friday in his dissenting judgment in the Koregaon-Bhima violence case.

india Updated: Sep 28, 2018 22:54 IST
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The Supreme Court Friday refused to interfere with the arrest of five rights activists by the Maharashtra Police in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima violence case and declined to appoint a SIT to probe their arrest.(Sonu Mehta/HT Photo)

Dissent is a symbol of “vibrant democracy” and voices in opposition cannot be “muzzled” by persecuting those who take up unpopular causes, Justice DY Chandrachud of the Supreme Court said Friday in his dissenting judgment in the Koregaon-Bhima violence case.

Justice Chandrachud, writing a separate minority verdict in which he disagreed with the views of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar, said that individuals asserting causes which might be unpopular to the echelons of power were entitled to the freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution.

He made it clear, however, that when expression of dissent enters the “prohibited field” of incitement to violence or subversion of a democratically elected government by recourse to unlawful means, the dissent “ceases to be a mere expression of opinion”.

The Supreme Court Friday refused to interfere with the arrest of five rights activists by the Maharashtra Police in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima violence case and declined to appoint a SIT to probe their arrest.

Observing that a special investigating team (SIT) must be appointed to conduct probe in the case, Justice Chandrachud said that court acts as a “watchdog” to ensure impartial and fair investigation as it was crucial for preservation of rule of law and liberty.

Terming as “serious” the allegations levelled by Pune Police that arrested the accused were plotting to attack PM Narendra Modi, Justice Chandrachud said this aspect required “responsible attention” and it cannot be “bandied” about by the police officers in media briefings.

“Dissent is a symbol of a vibrant democracy. Voices in opposition cannot be muzzled by persecuting those who take up unpopular causes. Where, however, the expression of dissent enters upon the prohibited field of an incitement to violence or the subversion of a democratically elected government by recourse to unlawful means, the dissent ceases to be a mere expression of opinion,” he said in his 43-page verdict.

First Published: Sep 28, 2018 22:54 IST