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Former PUCL secretary Gautam Navlakha at his New Delhi residence after being arrested by the Pune Police on Tuesday in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence. Photo: PTI.
Former PUCL secretary Gautam Navlakha at his New Delhi residence after being arrested by the Pune Police on Tuesday in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence. Photo: PTI.

No court-monitored probe in Bhima-Koregaon

The SC also extended the house arrest of the five activists, who were arrested on 28 August, by four weeks

New Delhi:The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a petition for a court-monitored probe into the arrests of five human rights activists by the Pune police in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence.

The court, however, extended by four weeks the house arrest of the five activists—Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, while declining a court-monitored investigation, held, “We are of the considered opinion that it is not a case of arrest because of mere dissenting views expressed or difference in the political ideology of the named accused, but concerning their link with the members of the banned organisation and its activities."

Holding a dissenting view on the issue, judge D.Y. Chandrachud supported the plea for a court-monitored special investigation, raising doubts on whether an impartial probe could be expected of the Maharashtra police.

The top court had earlier observed that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy", while directing the activists to be kept under house arrest rather than be removed to Pune.

Pune police arrested the five activists locations around the country on 28 August, blaming them for the violence that erupted in Maharashtra’s Bhima-Koregaon in January. A day later, the court directed the activists be kept under house arrest, staying the police force’s attempts to move them to Pune.

The court was hearing a plea by historian Romila Thapar alleging the arrests were arbitrary and made without evidence. The petitioner sought a court-monitored special investigation into the matter and the immediate release of the activists. It was also alleged that the arrests were an attempt to muzzle dissent.

In a series of coordinated raids across the country, the Pune police have arrested poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, civil rights activist and author Anand Teltumbde in Goa, national secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad, human rights activists Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves in Mumbai, journalist and former PUCL secretary Gautam Navlakha in Delhi, and tribal rights activist Stan Swamy in Ranchi.

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