NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday said it will quash the case against the five activists arrested in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence if evidence against them proved to be cooked up by Maharashtra Police.A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra observed that the court must go through the evidence to conclude whether there was actually substance in the criminal cases against the activists or it was fabricated.
The court said it might order a probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into the manner and the circumstances leading to registration of FIRs and arrests. “Every criminal investigation is based on allegations and we have to see whether there is some material. 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 the material against them,” the Bench added.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, arguing on behalf of the petitioners, pressed for constitution of an SIT.
Opposing the demand, the Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh said, “The problem of Naxalism is not confined to one state, Maharashtra, but affects the entire nation.”Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Maharashtra government, said the case and arrests were not about quelling dissent as asserted by the petitioners.
Mehta also questioned the locus standi of the petitioners before the SC and said, “Let them (arrested accused) withdraw their respective petitions in the courts as there cannot be parallel proceedings.”Countering Mehta, Singhvi said, “Varavara Rao has been earlier booked in 25 cases, but was either acquitted or the cases were withdrawn. Gonsalves had 18 cases booked against him. He was acquitted in 17, convicted in one for which appeal is pending. Ferreira was booked in 10 or 11 cases, he was acquitted in all of them. The other two have no cases.”
The court will 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.A writ petition was then filed in SC by historian Romila Thapar and four others contending the arrest of the activists was an instance of punishing dissent and difference of opinion.