NEW DELHI The Supreme Court on Monday said it will quash the case against the five arrested activists if the evidence against them is cooked up by the Maharashtra police in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence case.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra observed that the court must go through the evidence to arrive at a conclusion whether there is actually substance in the criminal cases against the activists or that the case is fabricated.
The court further remarked that it may even order a probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into the manner and the circumstances leading to registration of FIRs and subsequent arrests of the activists.
We may quash the case if there is no material. We will have to examine the materials first. Let them (Maharashtra police) submit a report before us. We will safeguard the liberty but we will also have to see what is the material against them,” added the bench, also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud.
The observations assume significance since the bench was earlier of the view that the activists should approach the Bombay High Court for getting the FIRs against them quashed.
However, after senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued on behalf of the petitioners and pressed for constitution of a SIT, the court indicted it is open to examine the veracity of the charges against the activists itself.
On Monday, Additional Solicitors General Maninder Singh and Tushar Mehta, appearing for Centre and Maharashtra government respectively, sought dismissal of the PIL on the ground that criminal law has already been set into motion and that the activists should go to the subordinate courts first to exhaust their remedies.
The court will however hear the detailed arguments on Wednesday, and till then the interim order of house arrest for the activists has been extended.
Simultaneous raids had targeted the residences of prominent Telugu poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha in New Delhi.
Rao, Bharadwaj, Farreira, Gonzalves and Navalakha were arrested under IPC Section 153 (A), which relates to promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place or birth, residence, language and committing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.
Subsequently, a writ petition was filed in the top court by noted historian Romila Thapar and four other eminent individuals, contending the arrest of the activists was an instance of punishing dissent and difference of opinion.
As an interim reprieve, the bench had said the activists will be placed under house arrest and will not be jailed.
During the hearing in the last week of August, the court had also remarked that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy and if you don’t allow dissent, the pressure valve of democracy will burst.”
In its reply affidavit, Maharashtra government has strongly rebutted that the five activists were arrested due to their ‘dissent’ or ‘difference in their political or other ideologies’.
The state government maintained that they are involved in not only planning and preparing for violence but were in the process of creating large scale violence, destruction of property resulting
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