New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said house arrests of all five urban naxals accused in the Bhima-Koregaon case will continue for four weeks and that the Maharashtra government should go ahead with its probe.

While reading out the judgment, Justice AM Khanwilkar said the accused — Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha — can't choose which probe agency should examine the case.

The three-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak, Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, had sought a full report of the case to examine how an investigation into a riots case in Bhima-Koregaon had spiralled into a conspiracy to assassinate a “sovereign head” and cause “mass destruction”, as the police had claimed. 

The apex court pronounced a 2:1 verdict on a plea by historian Romila Thapar and others seeking the immediate release of the five urban naxals.

The plea also sought a probe into their arrest by a special investigation team (SIT).

While reading out his part, Justice Chandrachud came down heavily on the Pune Police. He questioned the police’s move of holding a press conference immediately after the apex court had passed an interim order.

The press conference of the police regarding the investigation cast a doubt on the impartiality of the investigation, Justice Chandrachud noted. He added that police briefing to the media had become a source of manipulating public opinion and an inquiry was required against Maharashtra police officers for utilising the media for the same.

Justice Chandrachud added that technicality should not be allowed to override substantive justice.

What is Bhima-Koregaon case

The Maharashtra police had arrested them on August 28 in connection with an FIR lodged following a conclave 'Elgaar Parishad' held on December 31 last year that had later triggered violence at Koregaon-Bhima village in the state. 

The plea by Romila Thapar, economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devaki Jain, sociology professor Satish Deshpande and human rights lawyer Maja Daruwala, has sought an independent probe into the arrests and the immediate release of the urban naxals.

Senior advocate Anand Grover, Ashwini Kumar and advocate Prashant Bhushan had also alleged that the entire case was cooked up and adequate safeguards should be provided to protect the liberty of the five accused.

(With agency inputs)