The house arrest of the five rights activists arrested by Pune police from across the country on 28 August has been extended till 17 September.
The Supreme Court gave the order of extension of the house arrest of Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Pereira on Wednesday.
According to reports, a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud adjourned the hearing on to 17 September after it was submitted that senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is representing the petitioners, was busy in another court.
Shinghvi is one among a host of lawyers representing the petitioners in the case. Others include Prashant Bhushan, Indira Jaising, Dushyant Dave, Raju Ramachandran, Amarendra Sharan and Vrinda Grover.
The apex court bench had in an earlier hearing ruled that the activists will remain under house arrest till 12 September.
The Supreme Court had on 29 August issued a notice to the Centre and the Maharashtra government asking them to explain the grounds on which the five activists were arrested in a coordinated operation conducted in five states a day before.
The three-judge bench also prevented the police from keeping the five activists into custody but said they can be kept under house arrest.
Hearing a petition filed by historian Romila Thapar, economist Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande, economist Devaki Jain and human rights activist Maya Daruwala, the apex court observed that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If dissent is not allowed then the pressure cooker may burst”.
The petitioners said that the arrests are an attempt “to silence dissent, stop people from helping the downtrodden and marginalised people across the Nation and to instil fear in minds of people”.
“The timing of this action leaves much to be desired and appears to be motivated to deflect people’s attention from real issues,” the petition read.
In a press conference held on 29 August, the Pune Police said that the arrested activists were planning to “target higher political functionaries”.
“We seized laptops, phones, memory cards and several other documents which clearly show links to a conspiracy,” said a senior Pune Police official at a press conference.
Addressing the activists as “urban Naxals” the police said that they have links with Naxal outfits.
Before the arrest of the five activists, the Pune Police had on 17 April swooped on over half a dozen Dalit activists and those involved with the Kabir Kala Manch, which organised an Elgar Conference in Pune on 31 December 2017.
According to the police, the speeches made by the activists at the Elgaar Parishad conclave, a day before of the bicentennial celebration of the battle of Bhima Koregaon, contributed to the violence that was gripped Pune on 1 January.
The violence left one person dead and ended with Maharashtra shutdown on 3 January.
In June, police in Pune had allegedly recovered a letter mentioning a plan to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the house of one of the five persons arrested in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence.
The letter written by a person identified only as ‘R’ reportedly mentions a plot to kill the Prime Minister on the lines of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.