The National Human Rights Commission today issued notices to the Maharashtra government and the state's police chief, saying "it appears" that standard operating procedure was not properly followed in the arrests of five activists and this may amount to a violation of their human rights.
The Maharashtra chief secretary and the director general of police have been asked to submit a 'factual report' in the matter within four weeks.
A senior official of the National Human Rights Commission said the notices were sent after the rights panel took cognisance of the reports of arrests in multiple cities yesterday.
"On the basis of the media reports, the (Human Rights) Commission has observed that it appears that the standard operating procedure in connection with these arrests has not been properly followed by the police authorities, which may amount to violation of their human rights," an official said.
Pune Police yesterday raided the homes of prominent activists in several states and arrested five of them -- Maoist ideologue and poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, trade unionist and lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad and Chhattisgarh and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha in Delhi.
The raids were carried out as part of a probe into the violence between Dalit and the upper caste groups at Koregaon-Bhima village near Pune after an event called Elgar Parishad on December 31 last year.
A police official said the five arrested are suspected to have Maoist links and had allegedly funded the Elgar Parishad conclave.
Quoting media reports, the NHRC said the Delhi High Court had stayed Navlakha's transit remand, 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 NHRC said in a statement.
"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," it added.
The court had directed translation of police documents into English which are in vernacular language.
The Commission also observed that it had earlier received a complaint from an NGO in Geneva regarding the "illegal arrest" of five human rights defenders -- Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut -- by Maharashtra police in June this year.
"In that matter also, the Commission had issued a notice on June 29 to the DGP, Maharashtra calling for a report in the matter within four weeks, which is yet to be received," the NHRC said.