Punjab, Aug 29, 2018 : The tussle over the custody of arrested human rights lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj carried on well past midnight after her lawyers alleged that the Pune Police refused to comply with the order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The High Court had barred her from being taken to Pune, ordering that she be kept under house arrest till August 30.
Sudha Bharadwaj is one of the five activists who were arrested on Tuesday during a multi-city sweep by the Pune Police over allegations of Maoist links. The arrests, made in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence on December 31 - in which Dalit activists had clashed with upper-caste Marathas - triggered widespread shock and anger.
Later in the evening, after a local magistrate dismissed her transit bail application, the Punjab and Haryana High court provided her relief, ordering that she could not be taken to Pune till the magistrate concerned took a call on her transit remand.
Her lawyers, however, said that even after the High Court’s order, the Pune Police whisked her away from the house of the Chief Judicial Magistrate. "This is contempt of court," said her lawyer Sanjeev Chaudhary.
When there was no news of the activist’s whereabouts, her lawyers declared that they would approach the court immediately.
"They are neither respecting the order of the High Court, nor are they disclosing the whereabouts of a woman in their custody. This is an extremely serious situation and a brazen violation of the court’s order," the lawyers, among them Vrinda Grover, said.
Soon after, Ms Bharadwaj was spotted sitting in a car outside the magistrate’s house and she was taken inside for a hearing on the next steps.
Her advocate Vrinda Grover said, "The CJM has gone to the residence of the district judge for advice on the matter. It is midnight and the counsels are waiting at the residence of the CJM while Sudha Bharadwaj is being detained in a vehicle on the road."
Around 1 am, the magistrate granted Ms Bharadwaj house arrest and asked the police to comply with the high court order, ending the midnight drama.
Ms Bharadwaj, who has been representing tribals in various cases, has been lauded for her work at the grassroot level. As the activist was arrested from her home in Faridabad in presence of her daughter, friends and associates rallied around her and rubbished the allegations of the Pune Police.
Historian and author Ramachandra Guha tweeted, "As a biographer of Gandhi, I have no doubt that if the Mahatma was alive today, he would don his lawyer’s robes and defend Sudha Bharadwaj in court; that is assuming the Modi Sarkar hadn’t yet detained and arrested him too".