A few months ago, the Pune City Police had arrested five suspected members of the banned Communist Party of India [CPI] (Maoist) in January 2018, who had allegedly organized an event called Elgaar Parishad in Koregaon-Bhima village near Pune (Event) in order to mark the 200th year of Battle of Koregaon, which is said to have been won by the Mahar community, who formed a majority of the British troops, over the then Peshwa rulers in 1818. The Event was allegedly organized to incite the Dalit community against the Government of India. But another group of people had opposed the celebrations stating that it was a victory of British rulers over Indians. These clashes led to violence and public disorder in Koregaon-Bhima village. The police have further alleged that the arrested activists had sourced funds from banned Maoist groups to organize the Event.
The accused persons had been booked under various provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 as amended thereof (the Act) and the Indian Penal Code 1860 as amended thereof. The arrests have been reportedly made after having conducted nationwide raids on the basis of forensic analysis of electronic and other evidence obtained during the search operations. The Supreme Court has granted interim relief vide Order dated 29.08.2018 of house arrest of the accused persons.
Further, the Supreme Court had passed an order dated 03.02.2011 in Arup Bhuyan vs. State of Assam where it held that mere membership of a banned organisation will not make a person a criminal unless he resorts to violence or incites people to violence or creates public disorder by violence or incitement to violence. The Supreme Court had, thus, acquitted the accused person on the ground that he was only a member of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), which was classified as a terrorist organization by the Government of India and thus, banned under the Act, and also there was no evidence to show that he had participated in any act of violence or had incited violence.
The Centre had sought for a review of this Order dated 03.02.2011 in 2016 on the grounds that it may hamper the law enforcement agencies’ attempts to curb and/or prevent potential terrorist activities in the country. A review of this Order dated 03.02.2011 is still pending in the Supreme Court. Also, the Order dated 03.02.2011 may have an impact on the outcome in the Bhima-Koregaon case as arrests may have been made merely on the grounds that the five accused are suspected members of the CPI (Maoist) organization, which has been classified as a terrorist organization by the Government of India and thus, banned under the Act.
Senior Legal Associate
The Indian Lawyer