- House arrest of activists accused of Maoist link extended by top court
- Justice DY Chandrachud disagrees with two other judges on bench
- Warns police against conducting a media trial, attempt to muzzle dissent
Justice DY Chandrachud, one of three Supreme Court judges who ruled today over the arrest of five activists for alleged links to Maoist insurgents, gave a dissenting view, saying that the police appeared to be sponsoring a media trial of the accused. He said the charges against activists of involvement in a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi were "vague allegations bereft of materials".
In a two-one verdict, the Supreme Court today refused to interfere with the arrest of the five rights activists by Maharashtra Police over the Koregaon-Bhima violence and declined to appoint a special investigation team to probe their arrest. Rejecting the plea seeking the immediate release of the activists, the court sent them to four more weeks of house arrest.
While Justice A M Khanwilkar read out the majority verdict for himself and Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice D Y Chandrachud said he was unable to agree with view of the two judges.
Justice Chandrachud, in his judgment 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.
He said the petition was genuine and lashed out at Maharashtra Police for holding multiple news conferences and distributing letters to media. The police selectively disclosing probe details to the media amounts to casting cloud on fair investigation, he said and added that he saw no harm in appointing a special investigation team to probe the case.
"When someone says there is a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister, it must be investigated but it cannot be vague allegations bereft of materials," Justice Chandrachud said.
The five activists - Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha - are under arrest at their respective homes since August 29.
In its majority verdict today, the court said the arrests were not because of dissent of activists but there was prima facie material to show their link with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).
The majority verdict disagreed with the public interest litigation by historian Romila Thapar and others seeking the immediate release of five rights activist, with liberty to the accused to seek remedy in appropriate court.
(With inputs from PTI)
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