Activists arrested in nationwide raids: the story so far

SC allows rights activists to remain under house arrest

In custody: Vernon Gonsalves at the Faraskhana police station in Pune on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: Jignesh Mistry

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the Pune police to place the five well-known rights activists they detained in a countrywide crackdown on Tuesday under house arrest, and that too, in their own homes.

The court was hearing a petition filed by five eminent persons — Romila Thapar, Devaki Jain, Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande and Maja Dharuwala.

‘Safety valve’

A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, lashed out at the “sweeping round of arrests,” observing that democracy could not survive without dissenting voices. “Dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If dissent is not allowed, democracy will burst under pressure,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, on the Bench, said.

Poet Varavara Rao was picked up in Hyderabad, Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad, Vernon Gonsalves in Mumbai, Arun Ferreira in Chhattisgarh and Gautam Navlakha in Delhi.

Ms. Bharadwaj and Mr. Navlakha are already under house arrest in pursuance of an order of the High Court concerned. The Supreme Court extended their house arrest till September 6, the next date of hearing. In its interim order, the Bench, also comprising Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, directed that Mr. Rao, Mr. Gonsalves and Mr. Ferreira, if arrested, should be placed under house arrest in their homes.

It further ordered the Centre, Delhi Police Special Cell, and the State of Maharashtra to respond to the petition before September 6.

The petitioners said the basic rights of liberty and life are at stake when the government uses the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against peace-loving activists.

The hearing saw Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the government, object to the maintainability of the petition in the Supreme Court. He said the petition was filed by ‘strangers’ who are not remotely connected to the arrests of the activists in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case.

“Petitioners have come to court because somebody else was arrested. Those accused are before the regular courts... Your Lordships have to first hear us on the maintainability of this petition,” Mr. Mehta submitted in a hearing which began well past the usual court hours.

“But they (the petitioners) are on a wider issue here... Their problem is quelling of dissent,” Justice Chandrachud responded to Mr. Mehta.

The petition said the police action on August 28 was an “attempt to browbeat, intimidate and silence the dissenting voices and human rights activists in the country.”

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2020 5:09:48 PM |

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