Maharashtra Police has submitted an affidavit in Supreme Court in relation to the recent arrest of five activists in the Bhima Bhima Koregaon case. Police asserted that they were not arrested for their dissenting views against the government, but because police have evidence of their links with banned CPI (Maoist) organisation.
On 28th August 2018, Maharashtra Police had Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and P Varavara Rao, charging them under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. The next day, Supreme Court had ordered the state police to keep them under house arrest until September 9 and not take them to jail. Court had also commented that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy”.
Romila Thapar and four other activists had filed a petition in SC challenging the arrest of five ‘urban Maoists’, which a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra agreed to hear on 6th September on urgent basis. Responding to this petition, the Maharashtra police have filed the affidavit. It says that there is sufficient evidence to “dispel” the claim that they were arrested for their dissenting views.
Maharashtra government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the five rights activists were arrested due to the cogent evidence linking them with the banned CPI(Maoist) and not because of their dissenting views. The state’s response came in the backdrop of the apex court while ordering the house arrest of the five activists on August 29 till tomorrow, categorically stating that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy”.
The police informed the court that the activists were part of a criminal conspiracy and active members of the banned CPI (Maoist), who had arranged public meetings under the banner of ‘Elgaar Parishad’. The affidavit said the state was committed to protecting fundamental rights of every citizen and a mere dissenting view, difference in ideology or vehement objections to political thinking, cannot only not be prohibited but should always be welcomed in any democratic country.
The affidavit says, “Five accused persons for whose benefit the present petition is filed are not arrested based upon any dissenting views expressed by them or difference in their political or other ideologies….during the course of an intense investigation since January 8, 2018 (the date on which the FIR is registered), serious criminal offences are made out and incriminating material has emerged against them.” It also says “This Court is dealing with persons against whom cogent evidence has so far come on record showing that they are active members of the banned terrorist organisation namely, CPI (Maoist), and they are involved in not only planning and preparing for violence but were in the process of creating large-scale violence, destruction of property resulting into chaos in the society as per the agenda prepared by the CPI (Maoist), which was banned as a terrorist organisation in 2009”.
Police also informed the apex court that the arrested persons were not being indicted in the FIR for the first time but some had past criminal antecedents and were imprisoned earlier. It informs that the entire process of searches conducted have been videographed.
The content found in electronic devices seized from the activists showed their preparedness, planning and coordination with other activists to carry out a violent “ambush/rebellion against the enemy (which is our country and its security forces)”. “It would become amply clear that they are found to be committing and were planning and preparing for a series of criminal offences in connivance and conspiracy with other persons,” the affidavit added.
It also mentions that accused were involved in selecting and encouraging cadres to go underground in ‘struggle area’, mobilising and distributing money, facilitating selection and purchase of arms, deciding the rates of such arms and suggesting the routes and ways of smuggling such arms into India for its onward distribution amongst the cadres.
“Some of them have suggested training and laying of booby traps and directional mines. They are also found to be providing strategic inputs in furtherance of the objective of armed rebellion as per the strategic document of the banned terrorist organisation namely CPI (Maoist),” the affidavit adds. The affidavit said the house arrest of the activists merely restricted their physical movement and they can always ensure the destruction of evidence elsewhere while alerting other potential accused by being at home.
Police also challenged the locus of the persons filing the petition for the alleged persons. Terming petitioners Romila Thappar, Prabhat Patnaik, Devaki Jain, Satish Deshpande and Maja Daruwala “strangers” in the case, it says “The petitioners, who are strangers to the offence under investigation, are also praying for bail on behalf of the persons arrested during an ongoing investigation, strictly in accordance with the Code of Criminal Procedure after the investigating agencies having gathered requisite incriminating material against the said individuals”.