SC refused independent probe in Elgaar Parishad activist arrest case

A three-judge bench of the Supreme court in a 2:1 majority rejected to order a court-monitored independent probe into the arrest of five activists Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha in Elgaar Parishad case over an alleged maoist link.

Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justice A M Khanwilkar observed that the “arrest of activists was not one for mere dissent or for differences in political ideology. The accused persons have no say in seeking investigation of their choice. They cannot choice the manner of arrest.”

Justice D Y Chandrachud, presented a dissenting view saying the arrest of five accused was an attempt by the state to silence dissent. While writing the dissenting verdict in the case, he noted, “Technicalities should not be allowed to override substantive justice. The present petition not motivated by political aspects and extraordinary circumstances are present in the case.”

He further called the conduct of Pune police unfair, “Use of electronic media by Pune police to cast aspersions on those under investigation casts questions on probe and warrants appointment of SIT. This is a fit and proper case for court-monitored SIT investigation. Voices of opposition cannot be muzzled just because they have taken up an unpopular cause.”

The SC said that the five activists will continue to be under house arrest for 4 weeks. They can move the lower courts for bail.

The judgement was on petition filed by historian Romila Thapar, economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devaki Jain, sociology professor Satish Deshpande and human rights lawyer Maja Daruwala.

The Maharashtra police arrested the five activists in August in connection with FIR against the Elgaar Parishad conclave that later sparked caste violence in Koregaon, Bhima village.

Abha Boyal

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