Activists’ arrest | Pune court directs police to send arrested activists back home

All should be kept under house arrest till next hearing on September 6, says Supreme Court; asks govt to respond by September 4.

Updated - August 29, 2018 11:01 pm IST

Published - August 29, 2018 10:07 am IST

Police escort Telugu poet Varavara Rao to the lock-up at Faraskhana from the Shivaji Nagar court in Pune on August 29, 2018.

Police escort Telugu poet Varavara Rao to the lock-up at Faraskhana from the Shivaji Nagar court in Pune on August 29, 2018.

The Maharashtra Police’s move to arrest five well-known activists has been punctured on August 29 with the Supreme Court observing that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy” and directing that those in its custody be kept under house arrest.

The five human rights activists — Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonzalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha — who were arrested after the pan India crackdown on August 28 will not be sent to jail but be under house arrest until September 6, the court ruled.

Read: Who are the activists who were arrested for 'Maoist links' in nation-wide raids?

Here are the latest updates:


7:45 pm


Pune court directs police to send arrested activists back to homes

A court in Pune has directed the city police to send the arrested human rights activists to their homes, after the Supreme Court’s order that they be kept under house arrest till September 6.

District and sessions judge K.D. Vadane of Pune district court has ordered Pune Police to send Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira back to their residences, where they will be kept under ‘house arrest’, an official says.

Assistant Commissioner of Police, Shivaji Pawar, the investigation officer, says arrangements will be made to send all the accused to their respective cities. “We had contended before the court here to allow them to be put under arrest at a guest house in Pune. However, due to specific directions of the apex court, the judge ordered that they be sent back to their respective cities for house arrest,” he says.

The three activists may be sent back to their cities by August 30, police say.


6:00 pm

Shivajinagar Sessions court too halts proceedings

The Shivajinagar Sessions court in Pune, where Mr. Gonsalves, Mr. Ferreira, and Mr. Rao were produced, halts the proceedings after the Supreme Court order. The court was to decide on granting their custody to the local police.

The Special Public Prosecutor, the Investigating Officer and defence counsels meet additional sessions judge K.D. Vadane at his room. Following the meeting, the judge decides that he will wait till the official communication from Supreme Court reaches the court.

5:10 pm


Delhi HC stops hearing on Navlakha plea

The Delhi High Court stops hearing after it was told that the Supreme Court has put all activists under house arrest after staying their transit remand. The High Court will dictate its order on Thursday at 2.15 p.m.


4:50 pm


SC issues notice to Maharashtra government

The Supreme Court has issued notice to Maharashtra government and its police on the plea against arrests of five human rights activists.

The apex court directs the State govt to respond by September 4 on a plea of historian Romila Thapar and four others on the activists’ arrest. The matter will now come up for hearing on September 6.

The petition was moved by Ms. Thapar, Devaki Jain, Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande and Maja Dharuwala. Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared on behalf of them.

The apex court says all activists should be kept under house arrest till September 6.

While issuing notice to Maharashtra the SC observes that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If you don’t allow these safety valves, it will burst”.

The Maharashtra govt opposes maintainability of the plea, saying “strangers” cannot seek relief for activists who have already approached the High Court.

4:30 pm

Navlakha case hearing in Delhi High Court

Mr. Navlakha’s lawyers tell the Delhi High Court that they were not given the complete bunch of documents. To this, the court says that even it was not given complete set of translated copies of all documents, and asks the Maharashtra police why documents carrying grounds of the arrest are not translated from Marathi and not given to Mr. Navlakha.

"When can you give the documents. It is question of a person’s liberty. Without translated documents, how could the magisterial court have applied its mind to issue transit remand order,” the court asks. It adds it will examine the legality of the Maharashtra police action and transit remand order.

4:00 pm

'Arrested activists are members of CPI (Maoist)'

Mr. Gonsalves, Mr. Ferreira, and Mr. Rao are members of the banned CPI (Maoist), the Maharashtra government tells the court.

The three were produced before the Shivajinagar Sessions court.

The State claims that the 'Elgar Parishad' was organised with the aim of spreading the anti-fascist message of the CPI (Maoist). Reading out a letter dated April 18, 2017, allegedly written by Maoists to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the State argues that Mr. Rao was authorised to purchase weapons from Nepal and Manipur for the CPI (Maoist) to terrorise people.

Mr. Ferreira would recruit new students and send them to Naxal areas for training, the State claims.

Demanding a 15-day police custody for them, Maharashtra says the arrested persons have links with the CPI (Maoist) in Jammu and Kashmir.

3:30 pm

Arrest a political ploy to target dissent, says Navlakha

“The entire case is a political ploy against political dissent by this vindictive and cowardly government, which is bent upon shielding the real culprits of Bhima Koregaon and thus divert attention from its own scams and failures which stretch from Kashmir to Kerala,” Mr. Navlakha says in a statement issued by civil rights group People’s Union for Democratic Rights, of which he is a part.

“A political trial must be fought politically and I welcome this opportunity. I have to do nothing. It is for the Maharashtra police, working at the behest of their political masters, to prove their case against me, and my comrades who too have been arrested,” he says.

“Now I myself will be a witness to a political trial with a ringside view,” he says and tags a revolutionary song, “ Tu zinda hai toh zindagi ki jeet par yakeen kar ...”, often sung by Leftists.


3:00 pm


Ms. Bharadwaj, who was picked up by the Maharashtra police for her suspected links with Maoists, says that those speaking against human rights violation and fighting for the rights of Dalits and tribals were being targeted by the “present regime“.

She has been confined to her residence in Faridabad, under the guard of police officers, and allowed to meet only her lawyer.

“I think whatever is the opposition to the present regime, whether it is on Dalit rights, tribal rights, or human rights, everybody who is in the opposition is being rounded up in this manner.My mobile, laptop and a pen drive have been seized. I apprehend they are going to play around with this data. My Gmail and Twitter passwords have also been taken,” she tells reporters.

Her daughter, Anu Bharadwa, says, “There were 10 people. Among them, only one was a lady constable from the Haryana police. Others were from the Maharashtra police. When mom asked for search warrant, they said they did not have it. They did have some other document. That is why, mom allowed them to come inside. I do not have any idea about allegations but mom said they have come in connection with the arrests in Pune.”

2:00 pm

Standard operating procedure not followed in arrests: NHRC

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)  issues notice to the Maharashtra government and the State’s police chief, saying “it appears” that a standard operating procedure was not properly followed in the arrests of five activists and this may amount to a violation of their human rights.

The Maharashtra Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police have been asked to submit a ‘factual report’ in the matter within four weeks.

11:00 am

A Supreme Court Bench, headed by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, is to hear the plea moved by Ms. Thapar and four others against the arrests of the activists, at 3:45 pm.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing on behalf of them, seeks an independent probe into the arrests.


10: 45 am

Delhi HC defers Navlakha's case hearing

The Delhi High Court defers hearing Mr. Navlakha's case at 2.15 p.m., as some of the documents are yet to be translated from Marathi to English.

10 am

Gonsalves, Ferreira and Rao to be produced in court

Our Mumbai correspondent Alok Deshpande reports:

Pune police will present activists Mr. Ferreira, Mr. Gonsalves and Mr. Rao in the Shivajinagar Sessions court seeking their police custody.

They are likely to be produced in the court by afternoon, according to an officer probing the case.

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