Pune, Aug 30, 2018 : The three accused civil rights activists -- Vernon Gosalves, Arun Ferreira and Varavara Rao arrested in connection to their involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon violence in 2017, are active members of the banned organisation, Communist Party of India (Maoist), the prosecutor told Pune session court on Wednesday.
Pune police on Tuesday had conducted raids in different parts of the country and arrested five accused activists in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence case, three of which were produced before Pune sessions court on Wednesday. Vernon Gosalves was arrested from Mumbai, Arun Ferreira from Thane, whereas Varavara Rao was arrested from Hyderabad.
Seeking their 14-day remand, the public prosecutor informed the court that the accused were involved in the crime, adding that several documents were seized during the search operation from their houses. The court was also informed that electronic devices, seized from the accused, need to be investigated.
The court was also informed that the raids were video recorded. The prosecution further claimed, "In order to overthrow the Central Government, the accused have together formed an `anti-fascist` - the All India United Front."
Speaking about their involvement in the violence, it was told that Ferreira had an alleged role in recruiting the students and sending them to jungle area for training. It was also claimed that Varavara Rao had an authority to purchase the weapons from Nepal and Manipur.
Defence lawyer contested that Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) was wrongly put on accused, since no weapons were used and other criteria of UAPA were also not met. The defence counsel said, "From the past four months the authorities have been probing the case. We have cooperated with the police in their search operations".
"If the seized evidence is being sent to Forensic Lab (FSL), then what is the need of police interrogation and what is the need for custody?" the defence counsel argued.
The grounds on which Pune police sought their remand, included, "Code languages were used in some seized letters, which need investigation and their funding sources also require checking."
The sessions court judge reiterated the decision of the Supreme Court to keep all arrested accused, including Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and VV Rao under house arrest till September 5.
Giving interim relief to the five rights activists who were arrested by Maharashtra Police in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence case, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said that they will be be kept under house arrest till the next date of hearing. The apex court will hear the case again on September 6.
A petition was filed against the arrest of five activists by historian Romila Thapar along with human right activists Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande and Maya Darnall.
The petitioners had urged the SC to order an independent probe into arrest of the activists. They have also urged the SC to seek an explanation from Maharashtra for "sweeping round of arrest" in the case.
Arguing for the petitioners, lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that the FIR has no mention of the arrested people and there are no allegations that they were a part of any meeting. "The larger issue is the chilling effect merely because one does not agree with you (govt)," Singhvi said.
Strongly opposing the plea, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta says people with no connection to the case are placing the matter before the SC.
Maharashtra Police had on Tuesday raided the homes of prominent Left-wing activists in several states and arrested at least five of them for suspected Maoist links. The raids were carried out as part of a probe into the violence between Dalits and the upper caste Peshwas at Koregaon-Bhima village near Pune after an event called Elgar Parishad, or conclave, on December 31 last year.
Security officials said two letters recovered over the past few months, indicating Maoist plans to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, were also a reason for the raids.
Searches were carried out at the residences of prominent Telugu poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Farreira in Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha in Delhi.
Subsequently, Rao, Bhardwaj, Farreira, Gonzalves and Navalakha were arrested under IPC Section 153 (A), which relates to promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place or birth, residence, language and committing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.