Activists' arrest: CJI warns against 'cooked-up' proof

NEW DELHI, 31/08/2018:  A view of the Supreme Cour on August 31, 2018 in New Delhi.  
Photo by R V Moorthy / The Hindu

NEW DELHI, 31/08/2018: A view of the Supreme Cour on August 31, 2018 in New Delhi. Photo by R V Moorthy / The Hindu

Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said on Monday that the Supreme Court will set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) if the material relied on by the Maharashtra government to raid and arrest five activists on August 28 in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case is found to be “cooked-up”.

A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice Misra, said the court could not be expected to make up its mind without seeing the material evidence in the case.

‘CrPC violated’

“First of all, we must have a look at the material... If we see the material and find they are cooked-up, we will definitely order the setting up of a SIT... The debate here has to be whether the Criminal Procedure Code was violated. Wherever this court has appointed SIT, there has been grave violation,” Chief Justice Misra addressed the parties.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, for petitioners Romila Thapar and four others, submitted that the arrests had been made on the basis of “cooked-up evidence” planted in the media by the police. “We do not go by what comes in the media... Besides, in every criminal case, the allegation is the evidence is cooked-up. Both sides [petitioners and the State] can place their materials. We will see on Wednesday (September 19),” Chief Justice Misra observed in a high-voltage hearing.

The Chief Justice said the court had primarily entertained the petition to protect the liberty of the five activists.

“We have already done that. Our interim orders [to place them under house arrest at their respective homes] will continue,” Chief Justice Misra observed.

The five persons under house arrest are poet Varavara Rao, lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj, and activists Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Gautam Navlakha.

As for the quashing of the cases against them, the Chief Justice, at one point, suggested they (accused) could continue their efforts in the competent lower courts. The Chief Justice even mooted transferring the pending cases against the activists to one court while continuing with their house arrests. But senior advocate A.M. Singhvi persisted that the apex court should first hear the petitioners.

The hearing saw the Centre step in and voice its apprehensions about the problem of “naxalism” which has gripped the country. “I (Centre) have come here because the problem of naxalism is not confined to one State, Maharashtra, but affects the entire nation. I have come here considering the overall situation in the country,” Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh submitted.

Mr. Singh asked what “grievance” had compelled the petitioners to approach the Supreme Court directly.

“Is it that the police are not properly investigating the case under the CrPC or is it that they have a problem with the lower courts... Well, what is their grievance? Why did they not follow basic procedure and move the Supreme Court?” Mr. Singh questioned.

He said the procedure leaves it to the competent lower court to decide as per law. “If the Supreme Court allows petitioners, who are third parties to come to the Supreme Court like this, then every case will come here,” he submitted.

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for Maharashtra government, said the case and arrests are not about the “quelling of dissent as asserted by third party-petitioners here”.

“This concerns serious offences. There is material recovered from their laptops, computers, hard disks, etc. We have video-taped all our raids from the moment we knocked on their doors to recovery and seizure. This was done to protect ourselves against future allegations of high-handedness which may be raised against our investigation done in compliance with CrPC,” Mr. Mehta submitted.

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Printable version | Aug 19, 2022 8:50:33 am |