Gautam Navlakha, one of the five rights activists arrested in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima violence case, has been freed from house arrest. The Delhi High Court granted him relief, saying the Supreme Court last week had given him the liberty to approach an appropriate forum within four weeks to seek legal help, which he has taken.
The court said Mr Navlakha's detention has exceeded 24 hours, which was "untenable".
The Delhi High Court also quashed the trial court's transit remand order, which Mr Navlakha had challenged before the matter was taken to the Supreme Court. A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel said the trial court's order was unsustainable in law.
The Maharashtra public prosecutor's request that Mr Navlakha's house arrest be extended by two more days since the Supreme Court has extended their house arrest was denied by the high court. The high court said the top court extended the hour arrest only to enable the rights activists to move the appropriate court.
The Maharashtra police have alleged that the actions of the five activists at the 'Elgaar Parishad' meeting in Pune on December 31 last year later triggered violence at Koragaon-Bhima village, 29 km away.
The four activists who are still under house arrest are Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Sudha Bharadwaj.
Last month, senior officers of the Maharashtra police had claimed solid evidence including "thousands of documents and letters" that established the activists' links to Maoists and their role in facilitating weapons and funding. In front of cameras, senior police officer Param Bir Singh had read out a letter exchanged between an activist arrested earlier in June, which spoke of planning "another Rajiv Gandhi-like incident to end Modi-raj".
The Supreme Court on Septemer 28 refused to interfere with the arrests of the five rights activists and extended their house arrest by four more weeks. In a majority 2-1 judgement, the top court also refused the activists' petition for a probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT).
While Justice AM Khanwilkar read out the majority verdict for himself and Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice DY Chandrachud said he was unable to agree with view of the two judges.
Justice Chandrachud, in his judgement dissenting with the majority, said arrest of the five accused was an attempt by the state to muzzle dissent, and dissent is symbol of a vibrant democracy. Liberty cherished by the constitution would have no meaning if persecution of the five activists is allowed without proper investigation, he added.
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