On verdict on Bhima Koregaon arrests

29 September 2018

A majority verdict of Supreme Court by the CJI Dipak Mishra and Justice Khanwilkar has refused to order an SIT investigation into the arrest of five human rights activists by the Maharashtra police in the Bhima Koregaon case. Instead it has directed the Pune Police to go ahead with its investigation and has ordered four more weeks of house arrest for the activists, during which they may approach lower courts for bail.

We note with satisfaction that by continuing with house arrest for the activists, however, the Supreme Court has prevented the Pune Police from arresting the activists without an investigation. However, we feel that an SIT investigation monitored by the Court would have been better, given the illegalities of the Pune Police as noted by the minority dissenting judgment of Justice Chandrachud in the case.

Justice Chandrachud’s minority verdict recommends, “Circumstances have been drawn to our notice to cast a cloud on whether the Maharashtra police has in the present case acted as fair and impartial investigating agency. Sufficient material has been placed before the Court bearing on the need to have an independent investigation.”

The minority verdict rightly notes that the Maharashtra Police briefed the press on the involvement of the accused in a supposed plot to assassinate the Prime Minister. However, “during the course of the present hearing, no effort has been made by the ASG to submit that any such investigation is being conducted in regard to the five individuals. On the contrary, he fairly stated that there was no basis to link the five arrested individuals to any such alleged plot against the Prime Minister. Nor does the counter affidavit makes any averment to that effect. All this has certainly a bearing on the basic question as to whether the Maharashtra police can now be trusted to carry out an independent and impartial investigation.”

The dissenting verdict also noted that “One of the circumstances which must certainly bear upon the fairness and impartiality of the process which has been followed by the investigating agency is in regard to the importation of two panch witnesses from Pune, when the arrests were carried out. …It is not disputed before this Court that they travelled as part of the police team which made the arrest.” Witnesses imported by the Pune Police with them from Pune cannot be independent witnesses.

These grave violations of the law and procedures by the Pune Police clearly indicate a politically motivated attempt to create a media trial against the accused rights activists, knowing full well that any genuine investigation and trial would acquit them entirely.

- Central Committee, CPI(ML)