Nagpur: In a big respite for alleged Naxal leader Maruti Kurwatkar, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Wednesday ordered his release, while censuring Gadchiroli police for not following procedures while rearresting him. A division bench comprising Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice Prasanna Varale also directed court registry to add Gadchiroli superintendent of police Sandip Patil as respondent and issued notice to him, returnable by October 7.
While being released, Kurwatkar was asked to provide two sureties of Rs15,000 each from Nagpur and Chandrapur. The judges, in terse words, asked the government to stage the screening of critically acclaimed Marathi movie ‘Court’ for all police personnel with a view to sensitize them in dealing with issues like human rights. The movie, directed by Chaitanya Tamhane, was recently selected as India’s official entry for the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category for next year’s Oscar awards.
The judges flayed police for putting Kurwatkar behind bars without producing an arrest warrant and not following other procedures, thus bringing a bad name to their profession. The petitioner’s counsels — Nihalsingh Rathod and Surendra Gadling — contended that an investigating officer was not assigned to Kurtwatkar after his rearrest. Instead, it was a local crime branch officer who handled the case. They pointed out that their client was kept behind bars for three days without production warrant, which is clear violation of Supreme Court guidelines and Prison Manual. Earlier, DIG Ravindra Kadam filed an affidavit stating that three cases were pending against Kurwatkar.
The 35-year-old was picked up by police on September 12, immediately after he was released from Nagpur Central Jail on bail, following his acquittal in some cases. He was behind bars from January 2012 for about three years and eight months after Chandrapur police first arrested him at Talodhi. His lawyers added that about 50-60 police were waiting in plainclothes outside jail premises, who whisked him away as soon as he was released. He was not even allowed to meet his lawyers and family members before he was rearrested.
During the last hearing, the court orally passed strictures on respondents without following due procedure of law. The judges observed that police need to be taught importance of citizens’ liberty as mentioned in the Constitution of India. The police were warned that they should be ready for punishment in case of failure to come up with valid reasons for Kurwatkar’s rearrest.