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New Delhi : The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports about the arrest of five activists by police from different cities on August 28, 2018, in connection with the investigations in the Bhima Koregaon violence in Pune, Maharashtra, in the beginning of this year.  Those arrested include lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj, civil liberties activists: Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, and Varavara Rao.

On the basis of the media reports, the NHRC has observed that it appears, the standard operating procedure in connection with these arrests has not been properly followed by the police authorities, which may amount to violation of their human rights.  Accordingly, it has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Maharashtra, calling for a factual report in the matter within four weeks, according to an NHRC release.

According to the media reports carried on August 29, 2018, the Delhi High Court has stayed the transit remand for civil liberties activist Gautam Navlakha observing that police have not been able to satisfactorily explain the offence he had been arrested for.  The decision on a transit remand for lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj is also pending before the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Faridabad. The activist has told the court that she had nothing to do with the incident for which she has been arrested.  According to her, the FIR did not even name her and she is being harassed and arrested only because of her ideology. 

In the case of activist Gautam Navlakha, reportedly, the court has questioned how Pune police managed to get a transit remand from a Delhi court without any local witness.  The court has also directed translation of the police documents into English which are in vernacular language.

The Commission has also observed that earlier it had received a complaint from an NGO from Geneva regarding illegal arrest of five human rights defenders namely Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut by Maharashtra police in June, 2018.  In that matter also, the Commission had issued a notice on  June 29, 2018, to the DGP, Maharashtra, calling for a report in the matter within four weeks, which is yet to be received.

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