New Delhi: Justice D.Y. Chandrachud in his dissenting verdict ordered an SIT probe into the arrest of five activists as there is a serious allegation that the arrests have been motivated by an attempt to quell dissent and to persecute five individuals who have pursued the cause of persons who have suffered human rights violations.
Differing with the majority view of CJI Dipak Misra and Justice Kanwilkar, Justice Chandrachud pointed out that the recent order passed by this court in ordering the payment of compensation to former Isro scientist Nambi Narayanan nearly 24 years after the wrongful arrest is a grim reminder about how tenuous liberty can be and of the difficulty in correcting wrongs occasioned by unlawful arrest.
He said in approaching the present case, the court must be mindful of the need not to thwart a criminal investigation leading to the detection of unlawful acts. He said individuals who assert causes, which may be unpopular to the echelons of power, are yet entitled to the freedoms, which are guaranteed by the Constitution.
Dissent is a symbol of a vibrant democracy. Voices in opposition cannot be muzzled by persecuting those who take up unpopular causes.
He said the conduct of the Pune police in utilising the agency of the electronic media to cast aspersions on those under investigation fortifies the need for an investigation which is fair. When the Joint Commissioner of Police and the Additional Director General of Police cast aspersions in the public media against persons whose conduct is still under investigation, and in disregard of proceedings pending before a judicial forum, it is the duty and obligation of this Court to ensure that the administration of criminal justice is not derailed.
He took exception to the Maharashtra Police for selectively disclosing purported details of the investigation to the media and on television channels and its conduct casts a cloud on the Impartiality of the investigative process. The use of the electronic media by the investigating arm of the State to influence public opinion during the pendency of an investigation subverts the fairness of the investigation.
He said the police are not adjudicators nor do they pronounce upon guilt. In the present case, police briefings to the media have become a source of manipulating public opinion by media. That the police should lend themselves to this process is a matter of grave concern. The investigation commenced as an enquiry into the Bhima-Koregaon violence.
The course of the investigation was sought to be deflected by alleging (in the course of the press briefings of the police) that there was a plot against the Prime Minister. Such an allegation is indeed of a serious order. Such allegations require responsible attention and cannot be bandied about by police officers in media briefings. But during the course of the present hearing, no effort has been besmirching the reputations of individuals involved in the process.
While it was alleged that a plot against the Prime Minister has been uncovered in an alleged letter, it is noteworthy that no new FIR has been registered by the police and investigation continues by the Pune police under FIR 4/2018, pertaining to the Bhima-Koregaon violence.
While the Court does not determine the course of the investigation, it acts as a watchdog to ensure that a fair and impartial investigation takes place. A fair and independent investigation is crucial to the preservation of the rule of law and, in the ultimate analysis to liberty itself, he added.