Justice Chandrachud Reminds All of ISRO Spy Case While Dissenting in Activists' Arrest Ruling
Justice Chandrachud dissented from the majority on Friday and called the case “a trial led by the media.”
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New Delhi: Although in one of the last verdicts to be delivered by the outgoing Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra, a three-judge bench led by him refused to allow release of five activists arrested in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence case, Justice Chandrachud dissented from the majority and called it “a trial led by the media.”
The dissenting judge reminded all about the ISRO spy case where ISRO scientist Nambi Narayan was granted exemplary compensation by the court for being wrongly implicated.
Narayan was granted a compensation of 50 lakh as he was wrongly implicated for leaking sensitive information. Justice Chandrachud said that “it should be a reminder for us.”
The majority verdict of the Supreme Court extended the house arrest of the right activists for four weeks to let them approach the trial court. Meanwhile, the bench also allowed Maharashtra police to go ahead with the investigation, while dismissing plea for an SIT probe into their arrest.
However, the judge, known for his strong dissent, has cast serious aspersions, not only on the media but on the Pune police as well. “Letter alleged to have been written by Sudha Bhardwaj was flashed on a TV channel, police selectively disclosing probe details to media casting cloud on fairness of investigation,” said Justice Chandrachud in his verdict.
The Pune Police in late August raided rights activists and academicians across the country and arrested five top activists. They were Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bhardwaj, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde.
The dissenting judge said that “the manner in which joint commissioner of police decided to leak evidence against rights activists to TV channel to influence public opinion by besmirching their reputation requires independent investigation.”
What Justice Chandrachud cited now was also a bone of contention in the Bombay High Court in early September.
Pulling up Maharashtra police for briefing the press on the arrest of five rights activists and lawyers in connection with a Pune meeting on the eve of the January 1 violence at Bhima Koregaon, the Bombay High Court had questioned investigative agencies for holding a press conference when the matter is sub-judice and said no further briefing should be held.
The PIL by historian Romila Thapar to address the arrest of rights activists was maintainable," he said, adding that the media meet of the police casts doubt on the impartiality of the investigation.
Justice Chandrachud also castigated Pune police for going public with evidence “terming it as disconcerting behavior”.
Justice Chandrachud further ruled that a special investigating team should be appointed which could oversee the probe against the activists. “This is a fit case for appointment of SIT. There should be monitoring of SIT probe by SC. But being in minority, this will only be of academic interest,” said the dissenting judge.
Justice Chandrachud further stated that “dissent was the safety valve in the pressure cooker of democracy and it cannot be muzzled by brute force of police.”
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