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SC extends house arrest of activists arrested on suspicion of links to Maoists

Five rights activists were arrested after near-simultaneous raids across five states, and charged with criminal conspiracy, creating fear and enmity between various groups.

india Updated: Sep 06, 2018 23:20 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Bhima Koregaon,Supreme Court,Sudha Bhardwa
Maharashtra ADG Param Bir Singh with Pune's Additional CP Shivaji Bodke (left) Dr.Shivaji Pawar (right) at a press conference about the house arrest of rights activists in Bhima Koregaon case, at DGP office, in Mumbai, on August 31, 2018.(Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)

The Supreme Court on Thursday extended till September 12 the house arrest of five prominent activists who were picked up by the Pune Police recently over alleged links to Maoists. The police action has been condemned by opposition leaders and other public figures as an attack on civil rights.

A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also criticised remarks by Pune’s assistant commissioner of police of Pune over the arrests.

“You must ask your police officials to be more responsible. The matter is before us and we don’t want to hear from police officials that the Supreme Court is wrong,” the bench told additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for Maharashtra government.

The apex court bench told the Maharashtra government to make its police officials “more responsible” on matters pending before the court.

The activists were earlier placed under house arrest till September 6 and not sent to jail on the Supreme Court’s order after a petition asked the court to order an independent probe into the Bhima Koregaon violence earlier this year. The arrests were part of an investigation into violence in Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra on January 1 during the bicentennial celebration of a British-era war.

“Dissent is the safety valve of democracy... the pressure cooker will burst if you don’t allow the safety valves,” the court had observed in the previous hearing, questioning the arrest of the activists nearly nine months after the violence.

On Thursday, Mehta told the top court that keeping the activists under house arrest would hamper the ongoing police investigation. The Maharashtra government told the SC on Wednesday that the activists were arrested because evidence linked them with the banned CPI (Maoist) group, and not because of their dissenting views.

The Bombay high court also criticised the Maharashtra Police machinery on Thursday for releasing information to the media about sensitive cases, saying such “over-enthusiasm could be fatal”.

The court’s remarks came as petitions were being heard on seeking court supervision in probes being conducted by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the killings of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.

The bench vital information was being leaked to the media by investigating agencies.

Referring to the press conference of senior IPS officer Parambir Singh along with Pune Police officials last Friday on the arrests of the activists, the HC said: “There is so much hue and cry about this media briefing and disclosures made.”

During the press conference, Singh had read out letters purportedly exchanged between the arrested activists. He said the police had “conclusive proof” to link Left-wing activists arrested in June and last month to Maoists.

(With inputs from PTI)

First Published: Sep 06, 2018 13:50 IST