Urban naxals: Shot in the arm for cops, clearly not a case of political dissent
New Delhi, Sep 28: One of the crucial observations that the Supreme Court made in the Bhima Koregaon case was that the case was not one of political dissent. The observation was made by the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra and Justice A M Khanwilkar, who delivered the majority verdict 2:1.
The dissenting view was by Justice D Y Chandrachud.
The court said that the arrest of the activists was not because of dissent or airing difference of opinion.
The court also said that the plea for an SIT probe stands rejected. The court also said that the evidence does not show that the arrests of these persons were made to quell dissent or because of a differing political ideology.
The Bench headed by Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra said that the house arrests would continue for four weeks and they could pursue relief in the lower courts. The CJI and Justice A M Khanwilkar said in the 2:1 majority verdict that it would not interfere with the probe. Justice D Y Chandrachud however gave a dissenting view while terming the petitions as genuine.
The court said that the accused cannot choose which probe agency should examine the case. The observations were made while delivering the verdict on the legality of the raids and arrest of five persons allegedly sympathetic towards naxalites.
Justice Chandrachud in his dissenting view however cautioned the Maharashtra police and said that police briefing in the media has become a manner of manipulation and leads to trial by media. Here it is about a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister, he said. Can the police be trusted to carry out an impartial probe, he questioned.
He also said that the petition was a genuine one while lashing out at the cops for the presser and distribution of letters to the media. He also added that if this court does not stand by liberty, dignity and dissent, we may as well comprise a requiem for these rights.
This verdict is a clear shot in the arm for the Maharashtra Police as a result of which they can go ahead with the investigation. The police had booked the activists under IPC Section 153 (A), which relates to promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place or birth, residence, language and committing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.
The five persons, Vara Vara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Feriera, Vernon Gonsalves and Gautam Navlakha had been arrested by the Pune police following on the ground that they were instrumental in inciting violence in the Bhima Koregaon case. It was also alleged that they were plotting the assassination of the Prime Minister apart from trying to spread violence across the country. The SC had however placed them under house arrest.
During the course of the hearing the Bench had once indicated that the accused persons could continue their efforts in the competent lower courts. The Bench even mooted transferring the pending cases to one court while continuing with their house arrests. However the counsel for the activists insisted that the Supreme Court should first hear them.
The Centre had brought to the notice of the court the problem of naxalism in the country. The problem affects the entire nation, the Centre had also said. This case is not about quelling dissent, but concerns a serious offence, the Centre further said.