The Supreme Court on Friday, 28 September, ruled that the activists in the Bhima Koregaon case will continue to be under house arrest for four more weeks.
The SC pronounced a 2:1 verdict on a plea by historian Romila Thapar and others, seeking the immediate release of the five human rights activists.
The majority of CJI Dipak Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar turned down the plea for a probe by Special Investigation Team (SIT) and said that the accused persons cannot choose which investigating agencies should investigate.
Justice DY Chandrachud, meanwhile, was in dissent of the judgment, and said an SIT probe was required. He held the arrests of the five activists to be wholly baseless and politically motivated, Live Law reported.
“Court has to be vigilant to ensure the liberty of those who take up unpopular causes. Voices of opposition cannot be muzzled because it is a dissent.”Justice DY Chandrachud
He also severally criticised the Maharashtra Police for holding a press conference even when the case was sub-judice in the apex court.
“Police briefing to the media has become a source of manipulating public opinion,” Justice Chandrachud said, adding that the press briefing creates a doubt on the impartiality of the police, India Today reported.
Acts of the Maharashtra Police raise a question of whether the force could be trusted to carry out the investigation, he added.
“If the court does not stand by liberty, dignity, and dissent, it may as well compose a requiem for these rights”, he added.
He said that the arrests had infringed the dignity of individuals and concluded that the case was fit to warrant a SIT probe.
The five activists – Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha – are under arrest at their respective homes since 29 August.
The plea by Thapar, economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devaki Jain, sociology professor Satish Deshpande and human rights lawyer Maja Daruwala, had sought an independent probe into the arrests and the immediate release of the activists.
The Maharashtra police had arrested them on 28 August in connection with an FIR lodged following a conclave – 'Elgaar Parishad' – held on 31 December last year that had allegedly triggered violence at Koregaon-Bhima village in the state.
(With inputs from PTI)