Bhima-Koregaon violence: SC extends activists' house arrest till September 12
Hearing a petition filed by historian Romila Thapar against the arrests of five activists in connection with the Elgaar Parishad meeting and the subsequent Bhima-Koregaon violence, the Supreme Court has extended the house arrest of the activists till September 12. Additionally, the apex court blasted the Maharashtra government and the state police over a recent press conference on the arrests. Here are the details.
Police say there's incriminating evidence, but arrests challenged in court
On August 28, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navalakha, Vernon Gonzalves, and Sudha Bharadwaj were arrested by the Pune police for allegedly having links to Maoists, who police believe sparked the Bhima-Koregaon violence on January 1. Subsequently, the arrest was challenged in the Supreme Court by Romila Thapar and four associates. However, the police have maintained that there's enough evidence to incriminate the activists.
What press conference was the Supreme Court referring to?
On September 3, Maharashtra's Additional Director General (Law & Order) Parambir Singh, along with the Pune police, had held a press conference on the case. During the conference, the police read out excerpts of letters allegedly exchanged between the activists, saying that they provided "conclusive proof" that the activists were linked to Maoists and had a hand in the Bhima-Koregaon violence.
A livid Supreme Court blasts the Maharashtra police
Livid with the Maharashtra government and police over the press conference, the Supreme Court lambasted the government, saying, "keep your officer in line." Subsequently, the Bombay High Court also blasted the police for holding a press conference on a sub judice case. A PIL has also been filed against ADG Parambir Singh for disclosing crucial evidence associated with an ongoing case.
What the Supreme Court bench told the Maharashtra government
"He is talking to the press and insinuating the Supreme Court is wrong. We do not want your police officers to tell us we are wrong. You are ruining peoples' reputation and casting aspersions on the court," said Justice Chandrachud while hearing the case.
Police claim there is cogent evidence of Maoist links
The arrest of the activists has been criticized as being a crackdown on dissent. The Supreme Court too had observed that "dissent is the safety valve of democracy." However, Maharashtra police claim that there is cogent evidence that links the activists to the banned CPI (Maoist) organization that is believed to have sparked the Bhima-Koregaon violence. The next hearing is on September 12.