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Bombay High Court raps Maharashtra police: Why hold press conference on sub judice matter?

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During the briefing, police read out letters exchanged between the activists who were arrested and claimed they had proof of their links with Maoists. 

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court raised questions on Monday over Maharashtra police’s media briefing on its case against some prominent activists arrested for their alleged links with Maoists.

State Additional Director General (Law and Order) Parambir Singh along with the Pune police had addressed the media on the case on Friday.

During the press conference, Singh had read out letters purportedly exchanged between the activists. He claimed that the police had “conclusive proof” to link Left-wing activists arrested in June and last week to Maoists.

A division bench of Justices S.S. Shinde and Mridula Bhatkar questioned how the police could read out such documents which may be used as evidence in the case.

“How can the police do this? The matter is sub judice. The Supreme Court is seized of the matter. In such cases, revealing information pertaining to the case is wrong,” Justice Bhatkar said.

Public prosecutor Deepak Thakare said he would speak to the police officials concerned and seek their response.

The bench was hearing a petition filed on Friday by one Satish Gaikwad, who claims to be a victim of the Koregaon Bhima violence. He sought a probe by the National Investigation Agency in the case.

Gaikwad urged the high court to restrain the Pune police from further probing the case, and stay the investigation.

The bench posted the petition for further hearing on 7 September.

Gaikwad in his petition also alleged that the Pune police were investigating the case unfairly and with malafide intentions.

“It is unfortunate that the Pune police have arrested intellectual persons of society, who are social rights activists, advocates, human rights activists, poets, writers and other respectable persons,” he said in the petition.

Since provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act have been invoked in the case, it would be appropriate for the NIA to probe it, the petitioner said.

Police had arrested activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut in June while probing the alleged Maoist connection with the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on 31 December last year.

Inflammatory speeches at the event led to violence at Koregaon Bhima near Pune on the next day, police had alleged.

Last Tuesday, police arrested five more Left-wing activists — Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navalakha — from different places in the country.

The Supreme Court later ordered that the five be kept under house arrest till 6 September. – PTI

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