The Supreme Court on Wednesday, hearing a plea questioning Tuesday’s arrests of five activists for their alleged connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence, ordered that the arrested five activists- Sudha Bhardwaj, P Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, be kept under house arrest till September 6, 2018, saying dissent was the “safety valve” of democracy.
“Dissent is the safety valve of democracy and if you don’t allow these safety valves, it will burst,” the bench, which also comprised Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said.
A three-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra questioned the Maharashtra police for arresting these persons after around nine months of the Bhima-Koregaon incident.
The apex also issued notice to the Maharashtra state government and the state police on the plea filed by five intellectuals, including historian Romila Thapar and economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devika Jain, against the arrest of the rights activists on Tuesday in connection with the case.
The counsel, appearing for Maharashtra, raised the issue of maintainability of the plea, saying a “stranger” cannot seek relief for the activists who have already approached the high courts.
On Tuesday, Lawyer and trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj, revolutionary poet P Varavara Rao, civil rights activist and journalist Gautam Navlakha, and lawyers and activists Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves were arrested over an alleged Maoist activity, that rocked Maharashtra’s Bhima Koregaon on January 1 during the 200th anniversary celebration of a British-era war.
The Maharashtra Police had arrested them in connection with an FIR lodged there following an event - ‘Elgaar Parishad’ (conclave) - held on December 31, 2018 that had triggered violence at Koregaon's Bhima village.
The bench posted the matter for hearing on September 6.
(With inputs from agencies)