Activists held as SC relief term expires
Pune police arrested Maharashtra-based activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira on Friday after the duration of their Supreme Court-ordered house arrest expired and a special court in Pune rejected their bail pleas.
Pune special judge K.D. Vadane also turned down the bail plea of Haryana-based activist Sudha Bharadwaj, who a PTI report said might be arrested on Saturday.
On August 28, the Pune police had arrested the trio and fellow activists Gautam Navlakha of Delhi and Varavara Rao of Telangana, accusing them of Maoist links and a role in the January 1 caste clash in Bhima Koregaon near Pune.
But the Supreme Court placed them all under house arrest as a partial relief the next day. On September 28, the apex court declined by a 2:1 verdict to release them but extended their house arrest by four more weeks.
During this time, it said, the five could move the trial court, which would consider their cases on merit uninfluenced by the apex court’s observations.
On Friday, as the four-week period ended, Vadane rejected the petitions from Gonsalves and Ferreira seeking bail or an extension of their house arrest. He also refused to grant a week’s stay on the order to allow the accused to move a higher court.
Still, both moved Bombay High Court seeking an extension of their house arrest, and were refused.
Later, around 5.45pm, Pune police teams arrested Gonsalves and Ferreira from their homes in Mumbai and Thane, respectively. They will be produced before the Pune court on Saturday.
Gonsalves’s wife Susan Abraham said there were no plans yet for any fresh appeals.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana High Court has extended Varavara’s house arrest for another three weeks while Delhi High Court released Navlakha from house arrest on October 1, while clarifying the Maharashtra government was free to proceed further in the case.
Bombay High Court, which is hearing Navlakha’s petition to quash the FIR against him, has said no coercive action can be taken against him till November 1.
The Maharashtra government has petitioned the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court relief to Navlakha.
Judge Vadane said the evidence “showed their (Ferreira’s and Gonsalves’s) alleged links with Maoists”.
“Under the pretext of social work they were working for a banned organisation with intent to threaten unity, integrity, security and sovereignty of India. The investigation is at a crucial stage,” he observed.
He rejected the defence lawyers’ claims of procedural irregularities in the August 28 arrests and their demand for parity with Sangh parivar leader Sambhaji Bhide, granted bail in the same case.
A lawyer in Mumbai said: “Since the matters are being heard in different courts, with different lawyers, the outcome has been different although all five were arrested in the same case.”
This week, Bombay High Court refused the Maharashtra government’s request to extend the 90-day deadline — which has already expired —for filing a chargesheet against five other activists arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case in June.
The high court, however, stayed its own order till November 1 to allow the state to petition the apex court, which it has.