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Democratic institutions should be robust enough to accommodate opposition: SC


New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said democratic institutions should be robust enough to accommodate opposition and that a distinction has to be drawn between an opposition, attempt to create a disturbance or overthrow the government.

Observing that the liberty could not be stifled at the altar of conjecture, the bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y.Chandrachgud said: "our institutions should be robust enough to accommodate opposition either to the system or even to the this court. We will look at this case with a hawk's eye."

Telling the Maharashtra government that liberty can't be sacrificed at the altar of conjecture, Justice Chandrachud told Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta: "You must make a distinction between holding of an international conference and (activist doing) something beyond that."

There were attacks on this court, said Justice Chandrachud but "our shoulders are robust enough to get going."

Senior counsel Harish Salve appearing for the complainant in the Bhima Koregoan case said, "A lot will depend who is saying, a liberal or someone part of banned organisation. And what is the context?"

The court said this in the course of hearing of a petition by historian Romila Thapar and activist Maja Daruwala questioning the arrest of five rights activists -- Sudha Bhardwaj, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira. They are accused of their links with the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist.

Post lunch hearing saw the bench making significant observations in the course of Mehta's arguments defending Maharashtra police's action of arresting the five rights activists.

"You have to carry two staffers of the Pune Municipal Corporation to Maharashtra Sadan to act as panchas. In how many other matters are these two panchas witnesses?" Justice Chandrachud asked pointing to the presence of two employees of PMC during raids on the residences of five activists.

As during the course of the his arguments, ASG Mehta mentioned names of one institution and a university, Justice Chandrachud said, "It is a very well known social science institution that sends students to rural areas for field work. Then you have named a university. You have to make a distinction between subversion and actions to mobilise support."

As ASG Metha narrated to the court the chain of events starting with Bhima Koregoan incident, ACJI Misra asked him to show material on the arrest of five activists.

"What is the material for the arrests?" the CJI asked Mehta, telling him: "You must show us your best document first."

ASG Mehta said he was establishing the links between the arrests of five activists that took place in June and the one that took place on August 28.

Apparently realising that he was not able to cut ice with the bench, ASG Mehta urged the bench, "May I request that not to form any opinion before listening to us in full."

"Yes we will...but the mind is also human", Justice Chandrachud said, "We form picture after hearing all."

Earlier appearing for the petitioners Romila Thapar and activist Maja Daruwala, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the court that all that they were seeking is a court-monitored independent and objective probe which inspires confidence. I am not above law."

Senior counsel Anand Grover appearing for five activists arrested in June this year alleged said that some of the things are concocted and fabricated and all the laws have been thrown to the winds and no procedure has been followed.

Contending that there can't be two FIRs of the same incident at Bhima Koregoan, Grover referred to the statement of Maharashtra Chief Minister that conflicts with police version.

The hearing will continue on Thursday.

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