Slamming the Maharashtra Police for its media briefing on the arrest of five human rights activists for alleged Maoist links, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday question the state police on how it could “read out documents which may be used as evidence in the case” in a press conference.
On Friday, the Maharashtra Police had told reporters in Mumbai claiming to have ‘conclusive proof’ against the activists who were arrested as part of the probe into the Elgaar Parishad event on December 31, 2017, a day before the violence that targeted Dalits in Bhima Koregaon, according to a report by the Indian Express.
State Additional Director General (Law and Order) Parambir Singh along with the Pune police had also read out letters purportedly exchanged between the activists.
Singh claimed, “When we were confident that clear links have been established then only we moved to take action against these people, in different cities. The evidence collected so far clearly establishes links of arrested activists with Maoist organisations”, Indian Express reported.
Taking note of this development on Tuesday, a division bench of Justices S.S. Shinde and Mridula Bhatkar questioned how the police could read out such documents which may be used as evidence in the case.
"How can the police do this? The matter is sub judice. The Supreme Court is seized of the matter. In such cases, revealing information pertaining to the case is wrong," Justice Bhatkar said, according to PTI.
In response, Public prosecutor Deepak Thakare said he would speak to the police officials concerned and seek their response.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by one Satish Gaikwad, who claims to be a victim of the Koregaon Bhima violence, seeking a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the case, since provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act have been invoked in the case.
The petitioner also urged the High Court to restrain the Pune Police from further probing the case, and stay the investigation.
The bench posted the petition for further hearing on September 7.
In June, the State Police had arrested human rights activists and lawyers Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut while investigating alleged Maoist links related to the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31 last year. It had alleged that “inflammatory speeches” made at the conclave had led to the Bhima-Koregaon violence.
Last Tuesday, the Pune Police arrested five more human rights activists—Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navalakha —from different places in the country.