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Matter sub judice: HC questions Maharashtra police’s media briefing in activists’ arrest case

During the press conference, State Additional Director General Parambir Singh had read out letters purportedly exchanged between the activists.

india Updated: Sep 04, 2018 15:40 IST
Maharashtra police,activist arrest,media breifing
Maharashtra ADG Param Bir Singh with Pune's Additional CP Shivaji Bodke (L)Dr.Shivaji Pawar(R) adressed a press conference about the house arrest of rights activists in Bhima Koregaon case, at DGP office, in Mumbai on Friday.(PTI )

The Bombay high court (HC) expressed surprise on Monday at the Maharashtra Police’s decision to hold a press conference on the investigation into the violence that had erupted at Bhima Koregaon in January, despite orders from the Supreme Court (SC) and the case being under judicial consideration.

A division bench of Justice SS Shinde and Justice Mridula Bhatkar was hearing a petition filed by Pune-based businessman Satish Gaikwad and raised a query about Maharashtra Police giving out information regarding the arrests of lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, activists Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Naulakha, and poet and Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao.

“How can the police do such a thing when the matter is sub judice and the Supreme Court has sought submission of the evidence?” asked the HC. “Revealing information pertaining to the case is wrong.”

Advocate Nitin Satpute, appearing on behalf of Gaikwad, informed the court that Maharashtra’s additional director general of police (law and order) Parambir Singh had held a press conference on August 31 in Mumbai and disclosed emails and letters exchanged by the five activists.

After the activists’ arrest on August 28, a petition was filed in the SC seeking their release and an independent probe. On August 29, a five-judge bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra ordered the activists be kept under house arrest. It also issued a notice to the state, seeking response to the petition challenging the arrests. “Dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If you don’t allow these safety valves, it will burst,” the court observed.

Two days later, the Maharashtra Police held a press conference on August 31, in which Singh alleged that the five activists belonged to Maoist cadres and were procuring arms and ammunition from Nepal. “We have solid, fool proof and tamper-proof evidences. Sanctity and the integrity of the evidences have been totally maintained and we have very strong case,” Singh had said.

He added that over-ground cadres of Maoists have links with foreign organisations in France and the US, and they were trying to brainwash students at institutions like Jawaharlal Nehru University and Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Singh said the five had given provocative speeches at Elgar Parishad event held at Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018, which led to violence.

The next hearing for Gaikwad’s petition, which seeks a National Investigation Agency probe into the violence, will be held on September 7.

First Published: Sep 03, 2018 15:15 IST