40 MONTHS AFTER HIS ARREST OF NAXALITE CONNECTIONS, SUDHIR DHAWALE ACQUITTED. THE COURT SAID THAT LITERATURE SEIZED FROM DHAWALE’S RESIDENCE WAS ‘AVAILABLE ON THE INTERNET’
May 16 2014 : Mirror (Mumbai)
Abhijit Sathe and Jyoti Punwani
The court found the police investigation was not done properly, and said literature seized from Dhawale’s Byculla residence in 2011 was `available on the internet’
Mumbai-based dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale, who was facing trial in Gondia district of eastern Maha rashtra for allegedly supporting naxalites and being a member of the CPI (Maoist), was on Thursday acquitted of the charge by a local court.
Dhawale was arrested at Wardha in January 2011 and booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) after the Gondia police claimed that his name had figured during interrogation of one of alleged naxalites. For three years, Dhawale was lodged in Nagpur prison even as civil liberties activists protested that he had been falsely implicated.
On Thursday, District Judge R G Asmar in his 108-page order acquitted Dhawale, giving him the benefit of doubt on the grounds that investigations were not done properly and the prosecution could not prove Dhawale’s role in the case. Since there are no more cases against Dhawale, he is expected to be released on Friday afternoon, his lawyer Harshad Lingayat told Mumbai Mirror.
Dhawale, who edits the Vidrohi magazine from Mumbai that takes up social inequality and Dalit issues, was picked up by Gondia police at Wardha railway station on January 3, 2011 when he was returning to Mumbai after attending the Ambedkar-Phule Sahitya sammellan there.
Lingayat said the judgment noted that the documents seized from him -books, articles, magazines -were either available on the internet or in the market. Secondly, there was no evidence that he was propagating what was written in them. As for Dhawale’s own writings, the judgment said Dhawale was simply exercising his constitutional right to freedom of speech.
The documents seized included Sudhir’s writings on Charu Mazumdar, founder of the Naxalite movement, as well as books by Suniti Kumar Ghosh (who died recently) and Arundhati Roy.
Surendra Gadling, the senior defence lawyer in the case, described it as one of a series of “bogus cases“ foisted upon those opposing the government. Gadling had defended Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sridhar, and Sudhir Dhawale, all of whom had been arrested on charges of being Maoists and then acquitted after spending many years in jail.
He also described the arrest of Delhi University professor G N Saibaba as part of the same attempt.
“The Supreme Court has said that even if you are a member of a banned organisation, unless you instigate or indulge in violence, you cannot be charged. But our police seem impervious to Supreme Court rulings,“ he said.
The Gondia police had charged all arrested under UAPA, and with criminal conspiracy. “During the course of the trial, we could prove that the alleged incriminating material found at Dhawale’s house was in fact opensource material. There was no propagation of ideas nor any terrorist act,“ Lingayat said.
The court also found that the investigating officer had not visited the spots of incidence, nor had he intimated the DGP about the recovery of proceeds of terrorism. In all 39 witnesses, which included panchas who were present during seizure of material, were examined.
The court found that there was contradiction between witnesses and the prosecution theory. Some of them were declared hostile, while the court found the versions of some of them to be `tutored’