New Delhi: The Supreme Court today agreed to hear at 3.45 PM a plea by historian Romila Thapar and four other human right activists against the arrest of Left-wing activists by Maharashtra Police for suspected links with Maoists.
The petition by Thapar and others was mentioned for urgent hearing before a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra. Besides Thapar, the other four petitioners are Prabhat Patnaik, Devaki Jain, Satish Deshpandey and Maja Daruwala. Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the petitioners told the bench that extraordinary circumstances have cropped up due to the Maharashtra Police action of arresting several human rights activists.
CJI Misra initially told Singhvi to mention the matter at 1.05 PM today as the Constitution bench has assembled to hear a separate matter. Later the CJI said that an appropriate bench will assemble at 3.45 PM to hear the case. The petitioners have sought independent investigation into the arrest of human rights activists and their immediate release. They have also urged the apex court to thoroughly scrutinise and investigate the alleged false charges slapped against the human right activists. The activists alleged the arrest was an attempt to muzzle the voice of dissent.
“Issue appropriate direction, directing an independent investigation into arrest of these human rights activists in June and August 2018 in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence,” the petition said. Human right activists have also sought an explanation from the Maharashtra government over the issue of arrests. “Issue appropriate direction calling for an explanation from the state of Maharashtra for this sweeping round of arrests,” the petition said. “The use of draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against these activists who have no history of indulging or instigating any violence is clearly malafide and an attempt to brow beat and intimidate the dissenting voices,” the petition said.
Maharashtra Police yesterday raided the homes of prominent Left-wing activists in several states and arrested at least five of them for suspected Maoist links, sparking a chorus of outraged protests from human rights defenders. The raids were carried out as part of a probe into an event called Elgar Parishad, or conclave, on December 31 last year, which had later triggered violence at Koregaon-Bhima village. Prominent Telugu poet Varavara Rao was arrested from Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Farreira from Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj from Faridabad and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha was arrested from New Delhi. The Delhi High Court will hear at 2.15 PM today a plea of Navlakha against his arrest. Similarly, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had yesterday ordered that Sudha Bhardwaj should be kept at her own home until Maharashtra Police obtains transit remand for her.