Pune: Holding that academic Anand Teltumbde’s early morning arrest by the Maharashtra police was “illegal” and amounted to contempt of the Supreme Court, a Pune sessions court on Saturday ordered his immediate release.
Despite the Supreme Court declaring last month that Teltumbde could not be arrested for four weeks – till at least February 11 – the scholar was taken into custody by the Pune police at 3:30 am on Saturday (February 2) for his alleged role in the Bhima Koregaon violence of January 1, 2018.
Following Teltumbde’s sudden arrest from Mumbai airport, his lawyer Rohan Nahar moved an application before the sessions court seeking action against the Pune police. “The Supreme Court has clearly granted my client time till February 11 to approach the competent authorities. The police have gone against the apex court’s order and arrested him. This arrest is illegal,” Nahar argued before the court.
Special public prosecutor Ujjwala Pawar, opposing the application, argued that the arrest was made only after the trial court had rejected Teltumbde’s anticipatory bail application on Friday (February 1). She further argued that the sessions court is a competent authority to grant bail to an accused and that its failure to do so had “extinguished” the apex court’s protection.
On February 1, additional sessions judge K.D. Vadane had rejected Teltumbde’s anticipatory bail (pre-arrest) application. The court had observed that the allegations made against Teltumbde are of a “serious nature” and as the police had conveyed, his physical custody might be crucial in the case.
However, when Nahar moved a contempt petition before Vadane’s court on Saturday afternoon, the judge was compelled to refer to the Supreme Court’s order of January 14. Judge Vadane accepted Nahar’s argument and said. “it [the apex court’s order] is an umbrella protection for four weeks and Teltumbde can avail all options available to him within this period.”
Teltumbde is the tenth person to be arrested in this case. Earlier, the Pune police had arrested human rights lawyers and activists from across the country and branded them as “urban naxals.” All ten have been booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, whose stringent provisions make the grant of bail extremely difficult.
The police allege that Teltumbde and the others arrested were plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and had incited mob violence on the Dalits who had visited Bhima Koregaon on January 1 last year.
Some of those arrested were involved in organising Elgar Parishad, an event by over 240 human rights organisation, at Pune’s Shaniwarwada on December 31, 2017. According to the police, the speeches given at the event were provocative and had led to the violence at Bhima Koregaon on January 1.
Although he has been named as an accused in the case, Teltumbde had not attended Elgar Parishad.
Soon after the court’s order, Teltumbde spoke to The Wire. “The state is making it very clear. They are not going to allow any opposing voice. Anyone challenging them would be thrown behind bars. There is no rule of law anymore in this country,” he said.
While the Pune city police have levelled serious charges, its rural counterpart has virtually absolved two Hindutva leaders – Manohar alias Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote – of all charges stemming from their alleged involvement in the violence. The victims of the violence had named the duo as the prime accused. While Ekbote was arrested for a brief period and later released on bail, the police never questioned or arrested Bhide.