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

Whistle-blowing IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife suspects foul play after truck hits her car

By Nachiketa Desai*
Paranoia has seized Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, after the car she was driving was rammed in broad day light. According to Shweta Bhatt, it was beacon light-flashing truck without registration number plate. The incident took place on January 7, just a day ahead of the Gujarat High Court was scheduled to take up the bail application of Sanjiv Bhatt, arrested last year for "involvement" in a 23-year-old case.

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

99% MGNREGA funds "exhausted", Govt of India makes no additional sanctions: Study

Counterview Desk
A letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and prepared by senior activists led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, has regretted that, despite repeated public statements by his government promising employment and job creation that will boost the country’s growth, the country’s only employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), “is being systematically undermined.”

Morari Bapu, who has installed new statues of Ram, Laxman, Hanuman without weapons

By Sandeep Pandey*
A saint is one who can give some inner peace by his/her voice. This will happen only when s(he) will talk about love and harmony. Morari Bapu is one saint who has been conveying the message of love, peace, harmony, fraternity, etc. Today when a number of saffron clad figures with aggressive posture, spewing venom, fanning hatred to polarise voters are at the forefront of politics of Hindutva it is a relief to see Morari Bapu in a different mould.

Nuclear reactors sought from French giant "not safe": Letter to Modi on Jaitapur project

Counterview Desk
Amidst reports that the French nuclear giant EDF has submitted a “techno-commercial offer” for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur nuclear power park in Jaitapur on the Maharashtra coast, Dr EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also heads Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),  protesting the move.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Kerala land being acquired using "draconian, anti-people" National Highway Act, 1956

Counterview Desk
In a letter Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan, senior activists and politicians have insisted that the Kerala government should not agree to "inhuman displacement and buid-operate-transfer (BOT) Toll system", imposed by the Government of India and the National Highway Authority of India, for widening the current National Highway (NH) 66.

Kaiga NPP expansion: Karnataka to get just 400 MW, but lose thick forest, fresh water

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to the chairman and members of the Atomic energy Commission (AEC) on the issue of Kaiga nuclear power plant (NPP) expansion plan in Karnataka, Shankar Sharma, well-known power policy analyst, has argued that that in case of expansion, the site will face “exponential increase in radiation emission risks”, underlining, “Nuclear safety experts identify such a scenario as enhanced risk for NPPs with multiple reactors and shared technical facilities."
Sharma says the questions that also be asked whether Karnataka should lose more than 54 hectares of thick forests and about 152,304 cubic meters of fresh water per day from Kali river for a meager benefit of 400 MW from the Kaiga NPP, for which “there are many benign alternative options available for the state at much lower overall costs to the state.”
Text of the letter: This has reference to the public hearing under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Rule 2006 of Ministry of Environment, Fore…

Uttarakhand High Court: Biodiversity boards can impose fees on Ramdev's Divya Pharmacy

By Mridhu Tandon
In a significant decision, the Uttarakhand High Court on December 21, 2018 has dismissed the writ petition filed by Divya Pharmacy founded by Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishnan, challenging the demand of the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) imposing fees under the provisions of the Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing (FEBS).

Modi becoming Prime Minister now appears to be an "accident" to the people of India

By Sandeep Pandey*
Anupam Kher's film 'Accidental Prime Minister' has targeted Dr Manmohan Singh who served for two terms and may be again acceptable for the job if his party regains power. But his tormentor Narendra Modi seems to be out of breath even before his first term is over. Disillusionment with him is so widespread and deep that people of India may not bear with him for another term. As the general elections approach again the difference between the two needs to be examined.