Five activists arrested in a dramatic swoop by the Pune police on Tuesday last and charged under an anti-terror law will be under house arrest until the Supreme Court’s next hearing on September 6, five judges decided on Wednesday.
The court asked the Centre and Maharashtra to respond to a petition challenging the arrests. While delivering the judgment, Justice DY Chandrachud said, “Dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If you don’t allow the safety valve pressure cooker will burst”.
The arrests of lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj, Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao, and activists Arun Fereira, Gautam Navlakha and Vernon Gonsalves were meant to muzzle dissent, said petitioners, urging the court to hold the arrests.
“Arrests should surely be of those who actually spread terror in society through assassination and lynching, and not of those who work for human rights – the rights that are essential to citizenship and democracy? Are these arrests a demonstration to show that the democratic rights of the Indian citizen have been annulled,” asked one of the petitioners, historian Romila Thapar.
The Pune police said the activists are linked to Maoist groups and have shown “intolerance to present political system”. There is “conclusive proof” that they have a nexus with other unlawful groups and deliberate involvement in larger conspiracy. The activists, the police said, were planning to recruit members from 35 colleges and launch attacks.
(Featured image: LatestLY)