More Than 300 Advocates Issue Statement Condemning Arrest Of Lawyers In Bhima Koregaon Violence Case

More Than 300 Advocates Issue Statement Condemning Arrest Of Lawyers In Bhima Koregaon Violence Case

More than 300 Advocates have issued a statement standing in solidarity with the four lawyers who were recently arrested by the Maharashtra Police in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence case. The statement refers to the arrest of Advocates Sudha Bhardwaj, Susan Abraham, Surendra Gadling and Arun Ferreira.

The statement specifically highlights the reliance on Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 by the authorities as well as the lack of any evidence to support allegations against the arrested lawyers. It states,

“The lawyers in question are human rights defenders of repute, and we condemn the action of the police in arresting them without following due process of law. We note that this extraordinary exercise of investigative power by way of arrests of the above persons, including under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967, is firstly, without any complaint or allegation in FIR No. 4/2018 against the above persons, and secondly, does not appear to be supported by any incriminating materials to justify any reason to believe that these persons were involved in the commission of these grave offences or pose any risk to society. Instead, it appears that the police action is manifestly attended with mala fide and is a gross abuse of law.”

The statement further alleges that the police is leaking information to select media outlets instead of producing the same before the Courts. Besides, it emphasises on the claims that the arrested lawyers are being harassed for speaking in defence of alleged Maoists, and representing trade unions before various courts in Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.

“We forcefully demand that lawyers not be targeted for providing representation to clients who are constitutionally entitled to the same,” it asserts.

It finally reiterates the observations made by the Supreme Court while granting interim protection to the arrested activists. Justice Chandrachud had, while hearing a petition seeking the Court’s intervention to stay the arrests, had observed, “Dissent is a safety valve of democracy. If you don’t allow dissent, the pressure valve of democracy will burst.”

You may read the full text of the statement here:

We, the members of the legal community, hereby come together to express our solidarity with lawyers namely Adv. Sudha Bhardwaj, Adv. Susan Abraham, Adv. Surendra Gadling and Adv. Arun Ferreira who have been arrested or their residence has been raided by the Maharashtra Police allegedly in connection with FIR No. 04/2018 dated 08.01.2018 registered at P.S. Vishrambagh, Maharashtra in relation to the event 'Elgar Parishad’ held in Pune on 31 December 2017 and/or the alleged violence that broke out in and around Bhima Koregaon on 1 January 2018. While Adv. Sudha Bhardwaj and Adv. Arun Ferreira were arrested by the police on 28.08.2018, Adv. Surendra Gadling was arrested earlier on 06.06.2018. 

The lawyers in question are human rights defenders of repute, and we condemn the action of the police in arresting them without following due process of law. We note that this extraordinary exercise of investigative power by way of arrests of the above persons, including under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967, is firstly, without any complaint or allegation in FIR No. 4/2018 against the above persons, and secondly, does not appear to be supported by any incriminating materials to justify any reason to believe that these persons were involved in the commission of these grave offences or pose any risk to society. Instead, it appears that the police action is manifestly attended with mala fide and is a gross abuse of law.

We deprecate the manner in which the police is leaking allegations against these persons to select media outlets, without having produced the same material(s) before any competent court - giving an impetus for these persons to be subjected to a media trial. 

We reaffirm  the cherished principle of our legal system that even an alleged terrorist cannot be condemned unheard, and is entitled to representation by a lawyer. The right to fair trial and the right to legal representation are fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. In furtherance of this right, the Rules of Professional Standards notified under the Bar Council of India Rules stipulate that an advocate is bound to accept any brief in the courts in which she practices. It appears that the wrong committed by the above lawyers is their defence of alleged ‘Maoists’ and their representation of trade unions, before various courts in Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. We forcefully demand that lawyers not be targeted for providing representation to clients who are constitutionally entitled to the same.

We echo the observations made the Hon’ble Bench of the Supreme Court while granting interim protection to the above lawyers that “dissent is a safety valve of democracy”, which if not allowed, “the pressure valve of democracy will burst”. As members of the legal fraternity and as citizens of this country, we recognize the central role of dissent in a vibrant democracy. In the same spirit, we also condemn any illegal arrests of public intellectuals, activists and human rights defenders along with the above lawyers. 

Lastly, we call upon the concerned government to take strong action against the above illegal actions of the investigating agency. 


You can also sign the statement here