Bhima Koregaon: demand to release arrested activists

Principles of bail apply to UAPA cases too, says lawyer; the law has no place in a democratic country, says journalist

Published - December 10, 2019 01:43 am IST - Mumbai

Journalist Nikil Wagle (left) and advocate Sanjay Singhvi at a press conference in Mumbai on Monday seeking dropping of charges against those “falsely implicated” in the Bhima Koregaon violence.

Journalist Nikil Wagle (left) and advocate Sanjay Singhvi at a press conference in Mumbai on Monday seeking dropping of charges against those “falsely implicated” in the Bhima Koregaon violence.

Activists, lawyers and literary figures on Monday demanded the release of the nine human rights activists arrested in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case, calling the charges and case false and an act of political vendetta.

“It’s been over one-and-a-half years since these activists have been arrested and we still don’t know why they have been arrested. We were told this was a conspiracy to assassinate the Prime Minister. However, when the case was heard in the Supreme Court, the solicitor general did not utter one word regarding this,” said Nikhil Wagle, senior journalist, at a press conference. He wondered why, if it was indeed a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister, there was no progress in the investigation.

On June 8, 2018, the Pune police arrested Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira and Sudha Bharadwaj in connection with the case. All nine have been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Activist Gautam Navlakha and academic Anand Teltumbde have also been charged in the same case.

Trade unionist and lawyer Sanjay Singhvi said UAPA was a draconian act and went against democratic rights. “Preventive arrests are in essence the total removal of fundamental rights. It is a use of State power to stifle dissent,” he said.

Marathi Dalit writer and activist Urmila Pawar said all those who had been arrested after Bhima Koregaon incident should be released along with the the activists who had been called Naxals.

The activists have repeatedly been denied bail, to which Mr. Singhvi said the principles of bail that are applied otherwise should be applied here as well. “What is the problem in giving them bail under certain conditions? It’s just not being done. It is almost as if the legal fraternity is in stupor, and believes that under UAPA, bail can’t be given. However, there is a provision for it,” he said.

Statements from Justice (retired) P.B. Sawant and playwright Jayant Pawar demanding the release of the activists were read out as they were unable to make it for the press conference.

Mr. Wagle said UAPA was essentially a newer version of laws such as Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) and Maintenance of Internal Security Act. Mr. Singhvi said UAPA was much worse than laws like TADA, because it does not require evidence and allows people with a tenuous connection to the perceived wrongdoing to be charged. “Such a law has no place in any democratic country. The fight is against the law itself,” he said.

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