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A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court has issued notice in a petition challenging the arrests of activists and lawyers in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence.
The Court also ordered that the activists shall be placed only under house arrest at their own homes till the next date of hearing on September 6.
The petition has been filed by activists Romila Thapar, Devaki Jain, Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande and Maja Daruwala.
Since CJI Misra was sitting in a combination of a Constitution Bench, he asked the petitioners to mention the matter at 3.45 pm.
Later, a Bench of Chief Justice Misra along with Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud was constituted to hear the matter.
The hearing began post 4 pm.
During the hearing, Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the court that the FIR has no mention of the arrested persons.
“These people who are arrested have not been alleged to be part of any meeting. One of them was a US citizen who gave up the same and came to India to work as a lawyer, she teaches at one of the NLUs”, he told the Court.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the respondent questioned the locus of the petitioners.
“People with no connection the case are before the Supreme Court”, said Mehta.
Singhvi responded by stating that the petition raises the larger issue of violation of fundamental rights including Right to Life under Article 21.
Advocate Vrinda Grover also clarified that out of all the people arrested/detained, only two individuals have approached the High Courts – Gautam Navlakha and Sudha Bharadwaj. The Habeas Corpus petitions in those two cases were regarding stay of transit remand and the question before the Supreme Court in the current petition was a larger one.
Senior Advocates Rajeev Dhavan, Dushyant Dave and Indira Jaising also joined in stating that these were random arrests unconnected with the case and anybody could be arrested tomorrow.
“Nobody will be safe in an environment like this… we are not a Police State. They are not a threat to anyone, they have no criminal antecedents”, said Dave.
Indira Jaising submitted that some of the detained persons are lawyers and were, in fact, her juniors.
Senior Counsel Rajeev Dhavan also joined in stating,
“The body in Chhattisgarh that one of the accused works for, I have funded it for five years. Today if they are arrested, tomorrow it will be me. I’ll be next.”
“We’ll be next!” said Jaising.
The Court was proceeding to issue notice to the respondents and rise for the day when Singhvi pressed vehemently for a stay on the arrest.
Tushar Mehta strenuously objected to the same.
“A stranger is asking for stay on arrest. They (the detained persons) have approached the High Court which has already passed some interim orders”, he said.
Another lawyer for the respondent also tried to make an argument but Justice Chandrachud responded strongly, remarking:
“Dissent is the safety valve of a democracy; If you don’t allow safety valve, the pressure cooker will burst.”
The Court then proceeded to issue notice to the respondents.
The Court also noted that two of the arrested persons, Gautam Navlakha and Sudha Bharadwaj have been kept under house arrest pursuant to the order of High Court. The same was made applicable to the other detained persons, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves.
This interim order will remain in force till the next date of hearing which is September 6.
Read the petition and order below.