Bhima Koregaon case: SC-monitored SIT probe into activists' arrests demanded for protection from 'oppressive prosecution'
Eminent citizens on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that a court-monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT) should be constituted to look into the entire spectrum of the Bhima Koregaon case.
New Delhi: Eminent citizens on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that a court-monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT) should be constituted to look into the entire spectrum of the Bhima Koregaon case.
Senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for the five arrested persons in the case, alleged before a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud that there was a deficiency in the investigation and sought the court's interference to protect the individuals from the State's "oppressive prosecution".
Grover, claimed that the investigation is "unfair, biased and deficient" as indicated by "illegalities" in search of the houses of the activists. "Mere assertions of criminality by the State in the background of the special circumstances of the case cannot become the basis for incarceration of those detained," he said.
He further claimed that the probe into the second FIR, lodged by Tushar Damugade, is not permissible as two FIRs cannot be lodged on the same facts and circumstances. He said that the raids carried out at the residences of activists were illegal as the proper procedure of law was not followed.
Senior advocate and former union law minister Ashwani Kumar, who also appeared for the eminent citizens claimed that criminal investigations prior to and following the arrests as also detention of the accused is "patently mala-fide and a gross violation" of their fundamental rights.
"Allegations of criminal conduct on the part of those arrested on 28 August 2018, criminal investigations prior to and following the arrests as also detention of the accused is patently mala-fide and a gross violation of their fundamental rights," the plea said.
He further said that this assertion is prima facie validated by the manner in which the focus was shifted from the original accused, that is, Milind Ekbode and Shambhaji Bhide named in the first FIR to those arrested on 28 August, who were admittedly neither present at the Elgar Parishad meeting nor are named in the FIR of 4 January, 2018.
Kumar claimed that the facts on record including the manner in which criminal investigation is being conducted merits interference by this court to protect the individuals conceived from "oppressive prosecution and to ensure fair investigation under its own supervision".
He also said that action against citizens under stringent penal statutes such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act must pass the test of "reasonableness, rationality and procedural fairness".
The apex court extended till Thursday the house arrest of five rights activists — Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha — at their respective homes. The court had on 17 September said, it may order SIT probe if it found that evidence has been "cooked up".
The Maharashtra police had arrested the rights activists on 28 August in connection with an FIR lodged following a conclave — 'Elgaar Parishad' — held on 31 December last year that had later triggered violence at Bhima Koregaon village.
Prominent Telugu poet Rao was arrested on 28 August from Hyderabad, while activists Gonsalves and Ferreira were nabbed from Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bharadwaj from Faridabad in Haryana and civil liberties activist Navlakha from Delhi.
The state government has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh to be paid to the next of kin of the 13 deceased while it will bear the cost of medical treatment of the injured persons
In protest against the incident, the ENPO has urged the six tribes of the region to withdraw participation from the ongoing Hornbill Festival, which is the state's biggest tourism extravaganza
The bench said as of now, the action is proposed after air quality has deteriorated and directed the commission to take preventive advance measures to deal with the rise in air pollution