KOCHI: In a significant development, the Kerala high court made it clear that a Maoist cannot be taken into police custody just because of his political leanings. Justice A M Muhammed Mushtaq, in his order on Friday, said that a Maoist can be arrested and put behind bars only if he or she indulges in unlawful or anti-national activities. “Being a Maoist is no crime, though the political ideology of Maoists would not synchronise with our constitutional polity. It is a basic human right to think in terms of human aspirations,” Justice Mushtaq said in his order.The court was hearing a petition filed by Shyam Balakrishnan of Wayanad stating that he was arrested and harassed by the Thunderbolt team — a special police unit – for alleged Maoist links. The court ordered a compensation of Rs one lakh for the petitioner and also asked to state to pay litigation costs of Rs 10, 000.
The court said that the state police had violated the liberty of the petitioner by taking him into custody without verifying whether the petitioner had been involved in any offence. The order cited various Supreme Court precedents on the matter. In State Of Kerala vs Raneef, the SC observed, “In the present case there is no evidence as yet to prove that the PFI (Popular Front of India) is a terrorist organization, and hence the respondent cannot be penalized merely for belonging to the PFI. Moreover, even assuming that the PFI is an illegal organization, we have yet to consider whether all members of the organization can be automatically held to be guilty.
Balakrishnan, incidentally the son a former HC judge, had submitted that the police took him into custody and conducted an illegal search in his house. He termed the police action as infringement of fundamental rights and sought a directive to the state government to initiate disciplinary action against the DySP of Mananthavadi and sub-inspector of Vellamunda police station.However, the court declined to issue such a directive. “If the individual or organisation abhors and resorts to physical violence, law agency can prevent or take action against individuals or organisations,” the order said. The court added that the petitioner could approach the police complaint authority for action against the cops.
In its submission, the state government said that it had taken steps to prevent illegal activities of the Maoist group who were active in the forest area within Vellamunda police station limits.
Welcoming the order, human rights activists Jaison C Cooper and Thushar Nirmal Sarathy, who were arrested under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and were in jail for 47 days, said that it will help raise awareness among citizens on human rights. “However, there have been several judgments by the Supreme Court and high courts on these lines, yet the violations have continued. Ideally, in this case, the compensation should have been collected from the police personnel who violated the law rather than from the public exchequer,” Jaison warned.
Thushar said that the police force in the country and the state have been indulging in human rights violations in the name of such links. “While there is no cause for rejoicing, we can always hope for something better.”
Noted activist and president of Anweshi, K Ajitha also welcomed the order, and said that just because a person finds a political ideology interesting or agrees with certain principles of Maoist ideology, he or she cannot be termed a criminal. “There are a lot of people in society who might agree with the stand taken by the Naxals or Maoists as they might find that it was done for the weaker sections or for the larger good,” she said.