Supreme Court rejects review plea for release of activists in Bhima-Koregaon case

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The Sept. 28 majority opinion, gave the go-ahead to the Maharashtra Police to pursue the case against the five activists under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Saturday, October 27, 2018, dismissed the review petition filed by noted historian Romila Thapar and four others against the court’s majority opinion, delivered on September 28, upholding the arrests of five activists for alleged Maoist links in the aftermath of the Bhima-Koregaon violence.


The activists were arrested by the Maharashtra Police as part of a pan-India crackdown and raids held on August 28.


The review petition was filed after the writ petition against the arrests of poet Vara Vara Rao, lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj, activists Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Gautam Navlakha failed.


The majority opinion of the Supreme Court had held the arrests were not an attempt to silence dissenting voices in the country. It gave the go-ahead to the Maharashtra Police to pursue the case against the five activists under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.


The Review Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud held that "in our opinion, no case for review of judgment dated September 28, 2018 is made out. The review petition is accordingly dismissed".


The one-page order, published on Saturday and dated on October 26, rejects Ms. Thapar’s plea for an oral hearing in open court.

CJI agrees with the majority opinion

It is apparent that Chief Justice Gogoi, the new member on the Bench, agreed with his predecessor Justice Dipak Misra, who had seconded the majority opinion penned by Justice Khanwilkar on September 28.


Justice Misra retired as Chief Justice on October 2, a few days after the judgment. His successor and the present Chief Justice, Justice Gogoi, had replaced him on the Review Bench.


Review petitions are heard by the same Bench which delivered the original judgment. It is a rare remedy. The ambit of a review petition is also limited. It examines whether the verdict amounts to gross injustice or is against the natural principles of justice or biased.


If a judge retires in between, as in the case of Justice Misra, the incumbent Chief Justice appoints another to the Bench. In this case, Chief Justice Gogoi took over from where Justice Misra left.


With this dismissal of the review petition, Justice Chandrachud’s dissenting opinion on September 28, calling for a SIT probe into the allegations against the five activists and castigating the Maharashtra Police remains in minority.


It was Chief Justice Misra’s vote which had swayed the court’s verdict against the activists on September 28.


‘No evidence to show ideological motive behind arrests’

Justice Khanwilkar had concluded that there was no material evidence to show that the "different political ideology" of the activists triggered the police action against them.


The majority opinion said the arrests were made in connection with their alleged link with the members of the banned organisation and its activities. The majority opinion had also rejected a plea for a Supreme Court-monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the allegations against the five arrested activists. It had allowed the State Police to continue with its probe.


Justice Chandrachud however had called Ms. Thapar’s petition "genuine". He expressed strong doubts about the fairness of the State Police. The judge had held that the court has a duty to protect individual right to dissent with dignity and liberty. If not, it is time for a requiem for the death of these rights.


"The voices opposition cannot be muzzled," Justice Chandrachud had held.


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