SC extends activists' house arrest till Sept 12; criticises Pune police

Varavara Rao Varavara Rao, one of the arrested activists, gestures as he is escorted by policemen in Hyderabad | AFP

There is some relief amongst the friends and family of the Human rights activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira after the Supreme Court on September 6 extended their 'house arrest' till September 12. However, the human rights organisations and social activists are also keeping their fingers crossed hoping that they get justice.

The Supreme Court adjourned the hearing and came down heavily on the Pune police for talking to the media, casting aspersions on people and making insinuations against the court. The Apex Court said it was unacceptable that the police officers go to the media with their findings.

Reacting to developments on September 6, MJ Vijayan, National General Secretary for Pakistan India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy who has been closely associated with Gautam Navlakha said that the urgency clause and the reason of possible 'destruction of evidence' cited by the Maharashtra police claimed in their affidavit in SC has been set aside by the Apex Court .

“ It's a sign of relief. But the court, I hope, will set aside the very FIR itself in the same spirit it delivered the freedom of expression verdict in the case against Malayalam novel Meesha,” he said .

Clifton D' Rozario, Karnataka state secretary of the CPI(ML) said it is fortunate that the SC had taken note of the matter and the five activists have not been sent to police custody. “They need to walk free. They should be freed from house arrest also. These people have been fighting for the rights of lakhs of people. It is only because the government wants to shift focus from the economic crisis in the country and the growing disparity in society that these people are being targeted. These are dangerous times; what these people have been accused of is atrocious and absolutely baseless,'' he said.

As the hearing started , Tushar Mehta, the additional solicitor general read out the Maharashtra government's affidavit to describe the alleged Maoist links of the activists.

The affidavit claimed that the arrested persons had active links with the banned CPI(Maoist), “encouraging cadres to go overground in 'struggle' areas, mobilising and distributing money, selecting and purchasing arms, deciding rates of arms and suggesting the ways and routes of smuggling of these arms to the cadres”.

“The said organisation by no stretch of imagination can ever be considered representing dissenting opinion or as an organisation professing different ideology,” said the affidavit .

It was further asserts that some of them have “suggested training and laying booby traps and directional mines,” besides providing strategic inputs for furtherance of the agenda of the banned outfit.

But all these points being made by the Maharashtra government did not draw much response from the Apex Court. Instead, the Supreme Court came down heavily on the Pune police for making insinuations against the it in the case relating to the arrests of the activists in connection with the Bhima Koregaon clashes. The court set the next date of hearing for September 12 and restrained the police from making public the investigation details to the media.