ROMILA THAPAR VS UNION OF INDIA

Manvi Jain

PETITIONER: Romila Thapar & ors.
RESPONDENT: Union of India
BENCH: CJI Dipak Mishra, Justice DY Chandrachud and A.M. Khanwilkar
DATE OF JUDGEMENT: 28 September, 2018
CITATION: Writ Petition (Cri.) No. 2018
PROVISION USED: Article 14,19, 21 ,32 of the Constitution of India and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
BACKGROUND
• This case is one among the landmark cases once it comes to arresting activists. The question was raised on the fragile nature of protection of freedom of speech and expression. The Court has accessed the arrest of 5 human right activists by the Maharashtra Police under UAPA under the Indian Penal Code. It also had been filed under the general Public Interest Litigation. The petitioners have claimed that the Maharashtra Police has forged these 5 people for the events that occurred in the Bhima Koregaon violence and sedition. Here, it had been prayed by the petitioners that the enquiry ought to be done by the Special Investigation Team.
FACTS:
• On 28th August, 2018 a writ petition was filed by 5 persons who were notable human rights activists, journalists, advocates and political employee before Supreme Court under Article 32 of the constitution. Romila Thapar, Devaki jain, Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande and Maja Dharuwala challenging the arrests of 5 human right activists named Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonzalves, Arun Ferreira and Varavara Rao.
• This petition was filed after the Maharashtra Police carried simultaneous raids across completely different parts of the country in relevance the Bhima Koregaon violence. Consistent with the Police, the activist were members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) which is a banned organization under the Unlawful Activities prevention Act (UAPA).
• The arrest was challenged as it was made in an arbitrary manner and violate the freedom of speech, equality before law, personal liberty and voice of dissent. Further, the action of the police was to silence the voice of dissent against the involved government. The allegations were created to attack the freedom of expression and independence.
• Maharashtra police arrested by giving reason that the activists were the member of communist party of India (Maoist) which could be a banned terrorist organization within the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act as they were found involved in the Bhima Koregaon Violence.
• During this case the petitioner requested the court to constitute the Special Investigation team to conduct the autonomous and independent investigation.

ISSUES:
• Whether or not the arrest created by the Maharashtra Police was arbitrary and mala fide?
• Whether or not the arrest desecrated the rights mentioned underneath Article 14, 19, 21 of the Constitution?
• Whether or not the action under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is valid and in conformity with rule of law?
• Whether or not the plea for investigation by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) is going to be allowed?

CONTENTIONS RAISED BY PETITIONER:
• It had been argued by the petitioners that the State frivolously made the arrest that desecrated Article 14,19 & 21 of the Indian Constitution which assured the citizens for equality before law, free expression and personal liberty.
• There was a misuse of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (LAPA) against the accused persons.
• Lack of evidence and no legal criminal history was found in relevance with any involvement in the violence.
• Even a FIR on 8th Jan 2018 & 28th August 2018 was created against this incident of violence.
• According to them, police had wilfully framed the social activist so as to distract the people from real culprits, to stop the voices and to instigate the violence.
• The petitioners requested the court to represent a Special investigation Team for guaranteeing the independent, credible and autonomous investigation in the arrest of 5 human rights activists.

CONTENTIONS RAISED BY RESPONDENT:
• The Respondent argued that the arrest was created on the idea of evidence found against them.
• It had been proved in the investigation that accused persons have connections with Maoist (Communist Party of India).
• It was claimed by the Respondent that they all were the active members in the conspiracy of Bhima Koregaon violence.
• Several criminal proceedings in the past were found against the accused social activist.
• In keeping with the Respondent, many documents were found which proved the active participation of the activists against the country.

JUDGEMENT:
• The decision of this case had come up with the ratio of 2:1, in that the majority of decision was of CJI Dipak Mishra and Justice A M Khanwilkar where Justice D Y Chandrachud was of dissenting opinion.
• The Supreme Court's majority judgment rejected the plea for an independent inquiry by Special Investigation Team (SIT) on the ground that there was sufficient proof for the likelihood that they are members of a banned terrorist group i.e. Communist Party of India (Maoist) underneath Unlawful Activities prevention Act (UAPA). So, it's clear from majority decision that arrest created by Maharashtra Police wasn't mala fide and arbitrary in nature and didn’t infringed rights (i.e., equality before the law, freedom of speech and personal liberty) of arrested activist.
• However, consistent with the lone dissentient judge, Justice D Y Chandrachud, trapped a Special investigation Team (SIT) that ought to be monitored by the court as he had doubt regarding the tendency of the Maharashtra Police. The majority decision, forces one to re-examine the fragile nature of protection in regard to the freedom of speech and expression once it clashes with the State.

SIGNIFICANCE:
• The actions of the Pune police demonstrate what's wrong with the prosecutions under the UAPA. The police and prosecution usually know that their cases can end up in acquittal however still pursue them, nevertheless. The aim of UAPA prosecutions is to keep folks in jail for as long as possible. they're built on edifices of patent unconstitutionality and conjectures which masquerades as evidence, but they're allowed to continue within the name of protecting national security.
• What this case shows is that the suppression of dissent doesn't take grand declarations of states of emergency. Instead, the breakaway of fundamental rights is existent through the trivialities of procedure.
• If the Supreme Court had dominated the other means in Romila Thapar, it might have come to a great relief to all or any those in remission during this explicit case. There was enough on record to show that the Pune police had acted below the belt. Even so, the act of filing the petition has brought some scrutiny to the Pune police’s action since then.
• The main drawback here, however, does not involve Supreme Court. To be sure, this is often not the first time it didn't uphold civil liberties. It’s the UAPA that's the main issue – it engenders a system of freedom masquerading as lawfulness.
• Therefore, in this sense, the writ petition is correct: what's at stake in removing the UAPA is nothing less than India’s democracy.