House Arrest of 5 Activists Extended Till September 17 By Supreme Court

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New Delhi: 

Highlights

  1. Petition by Romila Thapar, 4 others challenged last month's arrest
  2. "Serious offences", incriminating material against activists, police said
  3. Police had also objected to keeping the activists under house arrest

The Supreme Court has extended the house arrest for five rights activists, accused of Maoist links, till September 17 when it will hear a petition seeking their release.

The petition by historian Romila Thapar and four others has challenged last month's arrest of the five activists that sparked a chorus of outraged protests from human rights defenders.

Last week, the Maharashtra Police told the Supreme Court that the arrests had nothing to do with the activists' dissenting opinion or difference in their political or other ideologies but was because of "serious criminal offences" and incriminating material.

The police cited evidence from the computers, laptops, pen drives and memory cards of the activists. The material "was shocking and clearly implicating" and revealed the activists not only as active members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) but also a sinister design to destabilize the society. 

"The contents also clearly reflect the preparation, planning and coordination...to carry out a violence, planned ambush/rebellion against the 'enemy' (which is our country and its security forces),"the police told the court.

The court is not dealing with somebody's freedom of speech, freedom of conscience or freedom to hold and express views, the police said, referring to the petition by the activists.

The police had also objected to keeping the activists in house arrest, as ordered by the Supreme Court. They said substantial damage must have been done by the accused while in house arrest to influence the investigation.

Maharashtra Police had, on August 28, raided the homes of the prominent activists in several states and arrested at least five of them for suspected Maoist links. Telugu poet Varavara Rao, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Ferreira, lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha were arrested.

The raids were carried out as part of an investigation into an event called Elgar Parishad, or conclave, on December 31 last year, which had later triggered violence at Bhima-Koregaon village in Maharashtra.

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