The Supreme Court on Wednesday extended the house arrest of five activists till September 17. They were arrested for their alleged role in the Bhima Koregaon violence in Pune last year.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud deferred the hearing on a writ petition filed by historian Romila Thapar, challenging the crackdown on activists across the country, for consideration on Monday.
The court passed its order for extension of house arrest, as senior advocate Abhishek M Singhvi, representing the petitioners, was busy with some other case.
During the brief proceedings, senior advocate Anand Grover sought permission for advocate Surendra Gadling, arrested by the Maharashtra Police in June, to allow the lawyer to argue his bail plea. Gadling was arrested just because he argued for the release of Delhi University professor and Maoist activist G N Saibaba, Grover said.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, however, countered him by saying he can show the relevant material to the bench. “We know our responsibility when a lawyer is arrested,” he said.
Telugu poet Varavara Rao, activists Vernon Gonzalves, Arun Farreira, trade union activist and lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha were arrested by the Pune Police from their homes on August 28 in connection with an FIR lodged following an event, ‘Elgaar Parishad’ (conclave), held on December 31 last year that had triggered violence in Bhima Koregaon village.
On a plea by Thapar and others, the apex court had on August 29 ordered that the five human rights activists be kept under house arrest till September 6, saying dissent was the “safety valve” of democracy.
On September 6, the top court pulled up a senior Maharashtra police officer for addressing a press conference justifying the arrest of the five activists, and extended their house arrest till September 12.
Earlier in June, along with Gadling, head of English Department of Nagpur University Shoma Sen, Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale, activist Mahesh Raut and Kerala native Rona Wilson were arrested for suspected links with Maoists.