Police didn't follow SOP: NHRC on activists' arrests

Police didn't follow SOP: NHRC on activists' arrests

Revolutionary writer P Varavara Rao, arrested in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case, being produced at a court in Pune on Wednesday. PTI

In a setback for Maharashtra police, the National Human Rights Commission on Wednesday observed that the authorities did not follow standard operating procedure (SOP) in the arrest of five activists in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence.

Taking suo motu cognizance of the media reports, the NHRC issued a notice to the Maharashtra chief secretary and director general of police calling for a factual report in the matter within four weeks.

"On the basis of the media reports, the commission has observed that it appears, the standard operating procedure in connection with these arrests has not been properly followed by the police authorities, which may amount to the violation of their human rights," an NHRC official statement said.

The NHRC had earlier received a complaint from an NGO from Geneva regarding the illegal arrest of five human rights defenders, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut, by the Maharashtra police in June 2018.

In that matter also, the NHRC had issued a notice on the June 29 to the DGP, Maharashtra calling for a report in the matter within four weeks. However, the Maharashtra Police had submitted report though the deadline was a month ago.

The NHRC's latest notice came following the arrest of lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj, civil liberties activists Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira and poet Varavara Rao on Tuesday.

The NHRC statement said the Delhi High Court on Tuesday stayed the transit remand for Navlakha, observing that police have not been able to satisfactorily explain the offence, he had been arrested for. The decision on a transit remand for lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj is also pending before the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Faridabad.

The activist has told the court that she had nothing to do with the incident for which she has been arrested. According to her, the FIR did not even name her and she is being harassed and arrested only because of her ideology, the statement said.

"In the case of activist Gautam Navlakha, reportedly, the court has questioned how Pune police managed to get a transit remand from a Delhi court without any local witness. The court has also directed translation of the police documents into English which are in vernacular language," it said quoting reports. 

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