"The police has no business ruining the reputation of people or casting aspersions on the court", Justice Chandrachud remarked criticising police for going to press on sub judice matter.
The Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice D. Y. Chandrachud and Justice A. M. Khanwilkar on Thursday extended the house arrest of the five activists accused in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence until September 12.
The bench also warned the police to be cautious on their dealings with the press in respect of the matter. Addressing ASG Tushar Mehta, Justice Chandrachud sternly stated, “please ask your police to be responsible...we do not want the police telling us that we are wrong...the Bombay High Court has also made observations in this behalf...I myself have seen the ACP, Pune saying that the Supreme Court must not have intervened...The police has no business ruining the reputation of people or casting aspersions on the court...”
ASG Tushar Mehta on Thursday questioned the locus of historian Romila Thapar and the four other eminent individuals in filing a PIL over the arrests of the activists- “the criminal proceedings are exclusively between the accused and the prosecution...a third party would have no say...it is a settled proposition of law and there are several judgments on this point...persons who are accused of serious offences are being investigated by the competent authorities...these people themselves have taken recourse under the code and Constitution...and now the petitioners who are complete strangers have moved the apex court saying that the accused are not such people could commit the alleged acts?”
Justice Chandrachud noted that the activists, who were placed under house arrest by the Supreme Court last week, have filed a supplementary affidavit seeking impleadment in the proceedings before the court. Advocate Prashant Bhushan added that the affidavit was filed yesterday with the handwritten statements of four.
“The locus or the lack of locus of the individual petitioners would not be wiped away by this support of the accused now...the accused have already taken available remedies...I will show to the judicial conscience that such perception of innocence could cause serious harm in the future...suppose, tomorrow, a class of persons is arrested for a criminal offence, who have taken remedies elsewhere, while others come and pray that the arrest be stayed and that the investigative agencies be directed to not proceed with the probe...”, replied the ASG.
To buttress his case, he relied on the 2006 apex court judgment in Rajiv Ranjan Singh v. UOI where it was observed that unnecessary interference by individuals who are absolutely strangers as regards pending criminal matters may cause damage to the prosecution case and, at times, serious prejudice to the accused also.
In his turn, Senior Counsel Harish Salve, appearing on behalf of the complainant before the magistrate, submitted, “There is no arrest without grounds...once the state comes in, it shows the presence of a criminal element...the state will show that they have acted on the investigation in their wisdom...”
Both Mr. Salve and Mr. Mehta remarked that the right to dissent is extremely important but the right to represent becomes futile when one is staring down the barrel of a gun.
“Can, in a criminal investigation, a third party intervene?”, asked the Chief Justice.
“There is no third party now...the law that has been cited is on a non-existing foundation fact... the proxy that Mr. Mehta has alleged has now been taken care of...”, asserted Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
“The question will be how far the court can go on an (Article) 32 petition...eventually, your prayer is for the quashing of the FIR?”, inquired Chief Justice Misra.
“No. We are seeking an independent inquiry by an independent body and, in the interim, protection...the inquiry maybe either by a sitting or retired judge under Your Lordships’ monitoring...they cannot say that the matter may not even be considered by Your Lordships because the magistrate is there”, replied Dr. Singhvi.
“The judicial point is whether Your Lordships should allow this inquiry...the magistrate should hear the matter...”, iterated Mr. Salve
Advancing that the protection by way of house arrest is a danger to the investigation as the accused can indulge in several activities from within the confined of their homes, the ASG stated, “I am putting one caveat...on the coming Wednesday, I have to personally see the evidence, the evidence which is not in the form of statements which can be recorded but that recovered from devices”
“These are arguments of prejudice. There are letters (vaguely) shown to the media behind Your Lordships’ back and there is nothing in the court of law”, objected Dr. Singhvi.
Noting that the arguments be confined to the criminal law parameters, the Chief Justice remarked that the bench could not comment on whether the documents are fabricated or not.
Senior Counsel Indira Jaising sought the leave of the bench to file, on behalf of the wife of Advocate Surendra Gadling, on of the accused, certain orders passed by the lower courts. She also requested the bench to peruse the remand application.
Senior Advocate Raju Ramachandran also prayed that the Delhi High Court have the liberty to pronounce its order on Gautam Navalakha’s, another activist, transit remand from Saket to Pune, which the High Court had earlier stayed, subsequently halting the proceedings in deference to the hearing in the apex court.
“He cannot have two remedies simultaneously. He is also here”, objected the ASG.
On Thursday, Ms. Jaising also prayed that the police be injuncted from placing information pertaining to the matter in the press- “I am appearing for a person who has been in custody for 6 months...everyday, the police is releasing a letter”
“After I was heard on (August) 29, the Additional Director-General of Maharashtra held a press conference on 31st where he disclosed several documents”, added Dr. Singhvi.