30, Aug 2018 | CJP Team
A Supreme Court bench presiding over the Bhima Koregaon case has directed that all five human rights activists arrested on August 28, 2018 as a part of a probe into the violence that took place in Bhima Koregaon on Janaury 1, 2018, be place on house arrest till the date of the next hearing. The bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra was responding to a petition moved by eminent civil society members.
Prominent Indians from across the political spectrum such as historian Romila Thapar, academic Devaki Jain, left economist and professor Prabhat Patnaik, professor of Sociology Satish Deshpande and human rights lawyer, Maja Daruwala had approached the SC urging that the highest court intervene and seek an explanation from the Maharashtra government on the recent spate of arrests of lawyers, academics and activists.
The petition may be read here:
The arrested include poet Varavara Rao, lawyers Vernon Gonzalves, Arun Ferreira, trade union leader and workers rights activist Sudha Bharadwaj and social activist Gautam Navlakha. The petition states that none of the persons arrested were even present at the Bhima Koregaon rally (or meeting) held in Bhima Koregaon and Pune respectively on December 31, 2017 and January 2018. The deliberate inclusion of the draconian provisions of the UAPA are meant only to deny basic freedoms and terrorise the populations, the SC was told.
The Bench responded to this petition saying “Dissent is the safety valve of democracy and if you don’t allow these safety valves it will burst.” The SC Order in response to this petition may be read here:
The court asked the state government to respond to the petition and also asked for allegations and materials against the accused. It also permitted the accused to file rejoinders and adjourned the matter till September 6.
This is a small yet significant victory for the civil rights movement in India that has of late faced extreme oppression by the state. Senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan who is himself one of the most vociferous defenders of the freedoms and rights of people, said, “The large-scale swoop on and arrests of some of our finest Human Rights activists, represents a new and very dangerous phase of this creeping fascism. In many ways it is worse than the Emergency of 1975.”