Can’t curb liberty on conjecture, says SC

“You [the Maharashtra government] should make a clear distinction between opposition to government and efforts for mass destruction or violence… We may not like it [resistance], but we must accept the fact that there will be opposition,” Justice Chandrachud told Mr. Mehta. The Maharashtra government claimed that their raids unearthed “complete materials” to show that activists Surendra Gadling, Soma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson and Sudhir Dhavale, arrested in June by the Pune police, were active members of the banned organisation Communist Party of India (Maoist).
Mr. Mehta submitted that evidence showed they were preparing for large-scale violence and had links to poet Varavara Rao, lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj, activists Vernon Gonzalves, Arun Ferreira and Gautam Navalakha, who were arrested on August 28.
The Supreme Court had earlier ordered them to be placed under house arrest at their homes. Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, for historian Romila Thapar and other petitioners who have challenged the arrests as a measure to quell dissent, cited the case of Varavara Rao. “He is a renowned poet. He is 79 years old. This is like ‘give a dog a bad name and then hang him’,” Mr. Singhvi submitted. He said the central theme of the petition is personal liberty.
Mr. Singhvi and advocate Prashant Bhushan argued that the charges were foisted against the activists. There have been selective leaks to the media in a bid to link the arrested activists with the Bhima-Koregaon violence and to efforts to create a situation of ‘mass violence.’ “All this has been done to create prejudice against them,” Mr. Singhvi submitted. The court remained sceptical about the quality of evidence produced against the activists. It will continue the hearing on Thursday.

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