Skip to main content

A "fake" attempt: Why didn't Maharashtra police produce "incriminating" evidence in court, released it to media?

By Adv Masood Peshimam*
The liberal movement in any country, and more so India, has a positive side: It helps check ultra-conservatism, ultra-orthodoxy and ultra-nationalism. It is under the liberal spell that extremist mindsets, seeking to target vulnerable sections and stifle dissent, can be curbed to an extent.
One can express dissent on any issue. The Constitution gives the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19, though subject to certain restrictions. However, the concept of reasonable restrictions is capable of widest interpretations, and hence there is a scope of its misuse.
In the prevailing political atmosphere in the country, attempt is being made not just to stifle dissent but sustain the campaign of violence against the weak and the feeble. The worst part of the scenario is that all the wrong things are done in the name of nationalism, and those opposing the establishment are retaliated with the stigma of being anti-national. Liberal voices are not only attempted to be curbed with heavy outpouring of criticism, even violence is perpetrated.
It is against this backdrop that the government of the day is refusing to discourage belligerence and bellicosity of communal forces, who perpetrate a high degree of tyranny and repression, curbing the freedom of intellectuals expressing their dissent.
Recently, the police swooped down on human right activists. The action was described as a follow up of a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister, "unravelled" after the seizure of a letter from a Maoist sympathiser. Those arrested included lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj from Faridabad, civil rights activist Gautam Nanlakha from Delhi, activist Vernon Gonsalves and lawyer-activist Arun Ferreira from Mumbai, and 78-year-old Telugu poet and activist Varavara Rao from Hyderabad.
The arrests, which took place alongside raids on several others' houses, police said, were based on names that emerged during the investigation of five other activists they had arrested in June in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence.
While the Pune Police termed raids and arrests a crackdown on “Urban Naxals”, who they claimed were responsible for the violence, many reacted with shock, describing the action as “absolutely chilling” and “virtual declaration of Emergency”, treating it as an assault on democracy. There are allegations of victimisation of the intellectuals.
Meantime, the Supreme Court expressed dismay over the manner in which the five activists were arrested in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence, observing that dissenting voices in a democracy should not be crushed. “Dissent is the safely valve of democracy, if dissent is not allowed then the pressure cooker may burst”, said Justice Y Chandrachud.
Subsequently, making out a case for the recent nationwide crackdown on activists by Pune Police, Maharashtra Additional Director General (Law & Order) Parambir Singh claimed that they have enough evidence to prove that the arrested activists Varavara Rao, Sudha Bhadwaj and Rona Wilson had links with outlawed Naxal groups.
At a media briefing, he said he had “email-letters” which purportedly spoke about arms procurement, muzzling of democracy and raising of funds, suggesting, they had solid Maoist links  The police also said that they have recovered “thousands of such letters” from the laptops seized from the accused.
But questioning the credibility of the letters, lawyer Susan Abraham, wife of Vernon Gonzales, one of the arrested activists, accused the police of not following the due process of law. 
“This is just to prejudice the minds of the public and divert the attention from the real issues like involvement of Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote [in Bhima-Koregaon violence] and Sanatan Sanstha’s involvement in the killing of rationalists. There is no credential value of the letters as none of these was authenticated in the Court, nor given to the defence lawyers”, Abraham said.
She asked why the police did not mention the “letters” in the Court if those were so important. “When the Pune Police filed a remand application in the District and Sessions Court on August 29 during the production of Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonzales and Arun Ferreira, they had stated 18 reasons. Not a single reason mentioned any letter or procurement of arms. I don’t understand why such kind of maligning of the accused is being done when the matter is already in the domain of the Court. This is illegal”.
“Any such document, if it is so sensitive, cannot be opened before the media before being examined by the Supreme Court. This is a actually part of the prosecution’s evidence”, a senior lawyer, practising at the Bombay High Court, Sanjay Kantawala, said. Senior lawyer Mihir Desai also said that the letters appeared to be suspicious.
Clearly, the possibility of someone faking the mail ID and "sending" incriminating documents cannot be ruled out. However, without verifying the accuracy of the documents the media briefing was uncalled for as the information fed at this stage tantamounted to influencing the public opinion. Advocate Abu Zaid Iraqi, prsacricing in Kalyan and Bombay sessions court, believes, “The Apex Court can take suo motu action against the prosecution for prematurely releasing the letters”. Another advocate Anand Khanderao feels that the arrest of these human rights activists is to divert the attention from some other sensitive issues.
Meanwhile, top writer-activist like Arundhati Roy, Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani and senior activist Aruna Roy have protested against the arrests. Roy said, “They should raid those who lynch and murder people in broad daylight. It tells very clearly where India is headed. Murderers will be honoured and celebrated. Anybody who speaks for justice or against Hindu majoritatianism is being made into criminal. What is happening is absolutely perilous”.
Justice Kolse Patil said that the Elgar Parishad had been suddenly linked to Bhima-Koregaon riots when an earlier report had said the riots were linked to incitement by Hindutva activists Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide. To Patil, the wrongful arrest of activists was an attempt by the state and the Central government to divert attention from the recent arrests of Sanatan Sanstha activists.
The outpouring of criticism against the arrest of activists born out of suspicion is based on the premise that there is an attempt to politically influence different components of the government, more so the law enforcing agencies. Political interference in police functioning is a matter of serious concern. 
 The prejudiced role of certain section of the police to prevent the repeated occurrence of mob lynching, absence of action against those indulging in inflammatory utterances against vulnerable sections and turning a blind eye over similar acts of commission and omission have put the credentials of the police at stake.
However, the entire police force cannot be tarred with the same brush. There are a lot of secular people in the police, who don’t want any section of society to be victimised on the basis of narrow considerations.
Series of gory events are leading to undeclared Emergency with heavy misuse of nationalism, which is much more dangerous than the declared Emergency of 1975-77. During the Emergency there was no attempt to provoke assault over any particular section of society, but currently intense hatred is being provoked against particular sections, sometimes in the name of religion, sometimes in the name of nationalism.
---
*Based in Kalyan, Maharashtra

Comments

TRENDING

Mystery around Gujarat PSU 'transfer' of Rs 250 crore to Canadian firm Karnalyte

By AK Luke, IAS (Retd)*
While returning from a Board meeting of the Oil India Limited (OIL) in Ahmedabad some time in 2012, two officers of the Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GSFC), Nanavaty and Patel,  saw me off at the airport. They said they were proceeding to Canada in connection with a project GSFC had entered into with a company there. As we were running late, I hastily wished them the best.

J&K continues to be haunted, as parts of India 'degenerate' into quasi-Kashmir situation

By Rajendran Narayanan*, Sandeep Pandey**
“Jab har saans mein bandook dikhe toh baccha kaise bekhauf rahe?” (How can a child be fearless when she sees a gun in every breath?) remarked Anwar, a gardener from Srinagar, when asked about the situation in Kashmir. On November 30, 2019, a walk through an iron gate in a quiet neighbourhood of Srinagar took us inside a public school. It was 11 am when typically every school is abuzz with activity. Not here though.

Indians have made 119 nations their ‘karma bhumi’: US-based Hindu NGO tells Rupani

Counterview Desk
In a stinging letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, the US-based Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), referring to the report citing his justification for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – that “while Muslims can choose any one of the 150 Islamic countries in the world (for residence), India is the only country for Hindus" – has said, he should remember, Hindus have made several countries, including USA, their home.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

What about religious persecution of Dalits, Adivasis, asks anti-CAA meet off Ahmedabad

By Rajiv Shah
A well-attended Dalit rights meet under the banner “14 Pe Charcha” (discussion on Article 14 of the Indian Constitution), alluding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi well-known campaign phrase of the 2014 Parliamentary elections, “chai pe charcha” (discussion over cup of tea), organized off Ahmedabad, has resolved on Wednesday to hold a 14 kilometres-long rally on April 14 to oppose the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), enacted on December 10-11.

Upendra Baxi on foolish excellence, Indian judges and Consitutional cockroaches

By Rajiv Shah
In a controversial assertion, top legal expert Upendra Baxi has sought to question India's Constitution makers for neglecting human rights and social justice. Addressing an elite audience in Ahmedabad, Prof Baxi said, the constitutional idea of India enunciated by the Constituent Assembly tried to resolve four key conflicting concepts: governance, development, rights and justice.

Tata Mundra's possible closure? Power ministry's 'pressure tactic' on consumer states

By Bharat Patel*
Tata power has announced to the Union Ministry of Power that Tata Power may be forced to stop operating  its imported coal-based Mundra Ultra-Mega Power Project (UMPP) after February, 2020. It is not only unfortunate but also criminal that irreversible damage has been caused to the fragile ecosystem of Mundra coast for a project that will have a running life of only seven years.

Population control? 10% Indian couples want to delay next pregnancy, but fail

Counterview Desk
Shireen Jejeebhoy, director at Aksha Centre for Equity and Wellbeing, previously senior associate at the Population Council, India, argues that the debate on the country's population was fuelled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address to the nation, where he drew attention to “concern” about the challenges posed by this ‘exploding’ population growth, needs to centre around the promotion of rights and education, instead of the language of explosion and the threat of coercion that this term implies.

Kerala governor turned History Congress into political arena, 'insulted' Prof Irfan Habib

Counterview Desk
In a signed statement, office bearers of the Aligarh Society of History and Archaeology (ASHA), Prof Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi (president), Prof Jabir Raza (vice-president), Prof Manvendra Kumar Pundhir (secretary) and Prof Farhat Hasan (joint secretary), have said that Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan had sought to insult veteran historian Prof Irfan Habib, 88, at the 80th session of the Indian History Congress, even as turning it into his “political arena”.