SC reserves verdict on Bhima Koregaon activists’ arrest

The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its verdict in the Bhima Koregaon raids case and the arrest of five activists. Historian Romila Thapar and others had sought the immediate release of the activists  after they were picked up nearly three weeks ago. A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, reserved judgment after the counsel for both parties, including senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Harish Salve, concluded their submissions. The bench, also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, asked the Maharashtra Police to file their case diary pertaining to the ongoing investigation in the case by September 24. It also asked the parties to file their written submissions by then. The five activists — Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha —  are under arrest at their respective homes since August 29. The day after they were picked up, the SC had ordered that they be kept under house arrest. Along historian Thapar, others who sought their release and independent probe into the matter included economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devaki Jain, sociology professor Satish Deshpande, and human rights lawyer Maja Daruwala. The Maharashtra Police had arrested the activists on August 28 in connection with an FIR lodged following a conclave — Elgaar Parishad — held on December 31 last year that had later triggered violence at Bhima- Koregaon village. The SC had said yesterday that it would look into the case with a hawk’s eye as liberty cannot be “sacrificed at the altar of conjectures”. It had told the Maharashtra government that there should be a clear-cut distinction between the opposition and dissent on one hand and attempts to create disturbance, law and order problems, or overthrow the government on the other. Senior advocate Anand Grover, Ashwini Kumar and advocate Prashant Bhushan also alleged that the entire case was cooked up and adequate safeguards should be provided to protect the liberty of five activists. The apex court had earlier said that it may order a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe if it found that the evidence has been “cooked up”.

—India Legal Bureau