NEW DELHI — Legal representatives for prominent human rights lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj have accused the Pune police of deliberately seeking to violate court orders and established criminal procedure in a bid to swiftly arrest Bharadwaj from her home in Haryana and whisk her away to custody in Pune.
"The actions of the Pune police are absolutely shocking, particularly the brazenness with which they sought to ignore an order by the Punjab and Haryana High Court," Bharadwaj's lawyer Vrinda Grover said in an interview over the phone.
The Pune police, Grover said, were driving Bharadwaj to the Delhi airport on Tuesday evening when they were finally forced to turn around, return to Faridabad and seek judicial permission for Bharadwaj's remand in line with the High Court order.
The stand-off between the police and Bharadwaj's lawyers culminated in a dramatic showdown in the the early hours of morning in the darkened driveway of the home of Ashok Kumar, the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) of Faridabad.
The police claimed they had adequate legal standing to arrest Bharadwaj without a warrant and take her to Pune as her arrest was under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Her lawyers pointed to a Punjab Haryana High Court order stating that Bharadwaj be detained at her home in Faridabad until a CJM analysed the First Information Report to assess if a transit warrant should be issued to move Bharadwaj from Haryana to Pune.
"The police kept saying UAPA, UAPA," Grover said. "As if the UAPA means the entire Constitution of India doesn't exist."
At a few minutes past 1 am on Wednesday morning, CJM Kumar issued a hand-written order stating Bharadwaj be returned to her home, to give him time to assess the evidence produced by the police.
Grover, Bharadwaj's lawyer, offered the following information to buttress her claim that the Pune police had sought to subvert the constitutional mechanisms and established legal precedents meant to safeguard the rights of the accused:
- The FIR, seizure memo and all supporting documents produced by the police were in Marathi, with no Hindi or English translations provided to either Bharadwaj or even the courts, making it impossible for the CJM to actually assess the validity of the grounds under which the police were arresting Bharadwaj.
The police are required to have independent witnesses present at the time of arrest. However, the seizure memo was signed by witnesses who had travelled with the police from Pune. "The entire Crpc provisions to protect the detenue have been subverted," Grover said.
The investigating officer sought to move Bharadwaj to Pune despite a court order directing them not to do so until further directions from the CJM.
Timeline of events:
- A joint team of the Pune and Haryana police raided Bharadwaj's home at about 7 am on Tuesday morning.
Bharadwaj was whisked away by the police. For several hours, her family and lawyer had no idea of her whereabouts.
Arjun Sheoran, a Chandigarh-based lawyer and member of the People's Union for Civil Liberties, filed an urgent petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court asking that Bharadwaj's remand to Pune be stayed.
The High Court directed that Bharadwaj be returned to her home in Faridabad under police supervision to give time for the Faridabad CJM to go through the contents of the FIR to ensure that the provisions of sections 41 and 50 of the CrPC, pertaining to arrest without a warrant, had been met.
Meanwhile, the police decided to drive Bharadwaj to the airport anyway, only to finally turn around when they were contacted by the CJM's office.
At 1 am on Wednesday morning, the CJM ordered that Bharadwaj be returned to her home under police supervision.
The CJM will examine the circumstances of her arrest afresh on either 30 August or 31 August.
HuffPost India has reached out to the Pune and Haryana police and will update the copy once they respond.