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SC Slams Govt On Arrests, Says Dissent Is The Safety Valve Of Democracy

The three-judge bench has issued an interim order, directing that the arrested activists be kept in their homes under house arrest till September 6.

During the hearing of the writ petition filed against the arrest of human rights activists, the Supreme Court slammed the government and reiterated that dissent is the very essence of a democracy.

The three-judge bench has issued an interim order, directing that the arrested activists Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha and Vernon Gonsalves be kept in their homes under house arrest till September 6.

The court also issued a notice to the Maharashtra government in the matter.

Justice DY. Chandrachud said, “Dissent is the safety valve of democracy, if dissent is not allowed, the pressure cooker will burst.”

Petitioner’s lawyer, dvocate Abhishek Singhvi, argued, “this is a larger issue of Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty). FIR has no mention of the arrested people. These people not alleged to be part of any meeting. One of the arrested persons was a US citizen who gave up her citizenship to work as lawyer in India, she teaches at NLU Delhi. The larger issue is the chilling effect merely because one does not agree with you (govt)”

Additioinal Solicitor General Tushar Mehta questioned the locus of the petitioners Prabhat Patnaik, Devaki Jain, Satish Deshpande, Maja Daruwala and Romila Thapar.

In a heated debate, senior Advocate Rajiv Dhawan emphasised the seriousness of the matter and said, ‘One of the people arrested works on the organisation I fund for 5 years. If he’s arrested I’m next.” He added, “These are random arrests. These people are not connected to any crime.”

Supreme court advocate Indira Jaising said that one of the arrested persons was her junior. “I could be next,” she said.

The petitioner’s lawyers themselves suggested that those who have been arrested by the police can be sent to their homes under house arrest.

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