Rarely in judicial history has an advocate been slapped with the same charges as that of her clients. But such was the case of Rekha Parghaniya – a lawyer and a human rights activist from central Chhattisgarh. She was arrested and charged with sedition and put in the same prison with her client, Rashmi Verma, a middle aged housewife arrested for “excit(ing) disaffection towards the Government.”
Ms. Parghaniya was defending Ms. Verma and her husband Bhola Bag, a contractual worker, who was booked with sedition as well. All three of them were also charged under Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA) for allegedly abetting the outlawed CPI-Maoist. They were acquitted by the district court of Durg on Wednesday.
Bhola Bag and Rashmi Verma were arrested on basis of a statement made by Sarita, an alleged Maoist cadre. She, in her statement to the Sarguja district police, allegedly claimed that she stayed with Mr. Bag and Ms. Verma while working for the underground party. The couple were arrested in February, 2009 and eventually charged under an 1860 Act of Indian Penal Code (IPC) for “excit(ing) disaffection towards the Government” and Section 8/1, 8/3 and 8/5 of CSPSA, 2005 for helping an ‘unlawful organisation.’
“What triggered the arrest of Ms. Parghaniya was the arrest of her husband in Kolkata,” said one of her lawyers, Sadiq Ali. Ms. Parghaniya’s husband, Deepak, was arrested in Kolkata earlier in 2012 for allegedly helping a unit of the Maoists to manufacture small arms. Maoist Central Committee did acknowledge Mr. Parghaniya as one of their “comrades” in a release issued on March 2, 2012. “Ms. Parghaniya was arrested just for being the wife of Mr. Parghaniya whom she last met several years ago,” said Mr. Ali.
A team of CPI (ML)’s women wing, AIPWA visited Ms. Parghaniya in Durg central jail and questioned the arrest. “…incriminating documents seized by the police from Rekha’s house include literature by Bhagat Singh, Marx, Engels and Bertolt Brecht, as well as some folders on the history of the workers’ movement,” said the AIPWA release. “The AIPWA team led by Lakshmi Krishnan was severely interrogated before they were allowed to talk to the women who were projected as big time Maoist guerrillas,” said State secretary of CPI (ML) Brajen Tiwari.
The couple were implicated as Mr. Parghaniya, ostensibly, arranged for some contractual work for Bhola Bag in Bhilai Steel Plant before he left Durg. “Allegedly, they were consolidating the urban network of the Maoists,” said Mr. Ali. While all three were booked by police under same sections of IPC and CSPSA, Ms. Parghaniya was kept out of sedition when charges were finally framed. “Since the permission was not sought by police from home department before slapping 124/A,” said Mr Ali.
The judgment said that the evidences were not sufficient to convict Mr. Bag and Ms. Verma. Ms. Parghaniya was acquitted as the two main witnesses were not present during the seizure, which was the important evidence against her. “Even the investigating officer said there were hardly any incriminating documents, other than few leftist magazines,” said Mr. Ali.
Rekha Parghaniya walked free on Wednesday night and managed to win freedom for her clients as well.