MUMBAI: Some retired judges and senior lawyers criticised the Maharashtra police Saturday for revealing before the media the evidence collected as part of its investigation into alleged Maoist links of some Left-wing activists arrested earlier this week.
However, a few others from the legal fraternity noted that there are no rules on whether or not the police should reveal documents in a case.
Additional Director General (Law and Order) Parambir Singh in a press conference held here Friday, while giving details of its case, read out letters purportedly exchanged between the activists.
He said they had "conclusive proof" to link Left-wing activists arrested in June and this week to Maoists, saying one of them spoke of a "Rajiv Gandhi-type event to end Modi-raj".
Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991.
Retired Bombay High Court judge P D Kode said revealing evidence collected as part of investigation was wrong.
"Police's job at the preliminary stage of a case is restricted to collecting evidence and presenting it before the court by way of charge sheet.
Police should not form an opinion at such a nascent stage," Kode said.
He said that even arrest of an accused should be made only when there is a fear that those persons would flee and not face the charges levelled against them.
"Arresting an accused just for the sake of it is not advisable. Even the Supreme Court has strictly advised against this," he added.
Kode had conducted the trial in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts case against 123 accused and was later elevated to the high court.
Senior counsel Mihir Desai expressed shock over the manner in which the state police machinery undertook the press conference.
"Reading out documents which is supposed to be part of evidence against the accused persons is wrong. The police has not given the said documents to the court or the defence lawyers," Desai said.
"The police is just maligning the accused persons. The state machinery is not supposed to do this," he said.
Desai added that since the Supreme Court is now seized of the matter, the state police should have presented its case there instead of doing so before the media.
A public prosecutor said on condition of anonymity that the police's move of revealing evidence was "foolish".
"By revealing the evidence at this stage of the probe, the police have put the accused at benefit. This will hamper further investigation," the prosecutor said.
Senior lawyer Amit Desai, while deprecating the police's decision to reveal documents, said ordinarily it should not have been done.
"Documents which are evidence in a case have to be submitted only to the court. Only in exceptional cases where the state machinery has to justify its conduct, limited information is passed out to the public through the media," Desai said.
Another senior lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani, however, opined that the police has the discretion to show their case to the media.
"In this particular case, the entire nation raised questions on the police's conduct and it was made to look like the police cooked up the case.
Hence, when the police faced brickbats in the public domain then they (police) can justify their case in the same public domain," Jethmalani said.
Retired Bombay High Court judge Abhay Thipsay, who recently joined the Congress, said there are no rules on whether police should or should not reveal documents in a case.
"Maybe, since the police faced criticism, in this case, it decided to justify its case. Police probably wanted to show that it took action of arrest only after collecting enough evidence," Thipsay said.
Pune police had on August 28 raided the homes of prominent Left-wing activists in several states and arrested five of them -- Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad and Gautam Navalakha in Delhi.
The raids were carried out as part of a probe into the Elgaar Parishad conclave in Pune on December 31 last year, which allegedly triggered violence at Koregaon-Bhima in the district the next day.
The Supreme Court has ordered that the five should be kept under house arrest till September 6.
In June, Pune police had arrested Sudhir Dhawale from Mumbai, activist Rona Wilson from Delhi and lawyer Surendra Gadling, professor Shoma Sen and Adivasi rights activist Mahesh Raut from Nagpur.