Five eminent citizens led by Professor Romila Thapar today moved the Supreme Court against “arbitrary arrests” of human rights defenders including Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha citing “Maoist links”.
The matter was mentioned by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the petitioners,  before a constitution bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul,  Kurian Joseph,  Rohinton Nariman and Indu Malhotra which had assembled to hear the reservations in promotions matter.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked Singhvi to mention it before the regular bench at 3:45 PM as such mentionings are not permitted before a constitution bench.
Protesting the “arbitrary” arrests, the petition said the arrests were made without a shred of evidence and alleged that an emergency-like situation existed in the country
The activists alleged the arrest was an attempt to muzzle the voice of dissent.
“Issue appropriate direction, directing an independent investigation into arrest of these human rights activists in June and August 2018 in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence,” the petition said.
Human right activists have also sought an explanation from the Maharashtra government over the issue of arrests.
“Issue appropriate direction calling for an explanation from the state of Maharashtra for this sweeping round of arrests,” the petition said.
“The use of draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against these activists who have no history of indulging or instigating any violence is clearly malafide and an attempt to brow beat and intimidate the dissenting voices,” the petition said.
Maharashtra Police yesterday raided the homes of prominent Left-wing activists in several states and arrested at least five of them for suspected Maoist links, sparking a chorus of outraged protests from human rights defenders.
The raids were carried out as part of a probe into an event called Elgar Parishad, or conclave, on December 31 last year, which had later triggered violence at Koregaon-Bhima village.
Prominent Telugu poet Varavara Rao was arrested from Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Farreira from Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj from Faridabad and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha was arrested from New Delhi.
The Delhi High Court will hear at 2.15 PM today a plea of Navlakha against his arrest.
Similarly, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had yesterday ordered that Sudha Bhardwaj should be kept at her own home until Maharashtra Police obtains transit remand for her.
With inputs from PTI