The Bombay High Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra Police why its officers had addressed a press conference on the arrests of five activists when the matter is still sub-judice, reported ANI. It has sought a reply from the state.

The court was hearing a petition demanding an inquiry by the National Investigation Agency into an event in Pune that reportedly triggered the violence in Bhima Koregan near Pune on January 1. The court said copies of the petition had not been served to all persons concerned, and adjourned the matter till September 7.

The Maharashtra Police have claimed that the violence in Bhima Koregaon on January 1 was incited by Dalit rights activists, who addressed an “Elgar Parishad” event in Pune on December 31. They have maintained that this event was funded by the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

“We had moved the High Court seeking an NIA probe into the Bhima Koregaon violence,” lawyer Nitin Satpute told “The court has issued notice to the state and the NIA for a response. During the proceedings, the lawyer appearing for the accused arrested questioned the press conference by the police. The lawyer contended that while the police is refusing to put out any documents, the officer addressed the press and tried to demolish the defence. This, he said, was interference into a proper trial. The judges observed how the police could hold the press conference when the matter is sub judice. It has issued a notice to the state for reply on September 7.”

On Friday, the Maharashtra Police defended its decision to arrest the five activists and claimed their speeches were meant to incite hatred. Additional Director General of Police Param Bir Singh read out letters at the press conference. The police claimed they have seized thousands of letters between “underground” and “overground” Maoists. Some letters allegedly also sought money to procure grenade launchers.

On August 28, teams of Pune Police raided the homes of several human rights activists in Mumbai, Ranchi, Hyderabad, Delhi, Faridabad and Goa, and arrested five of them – Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, Gautam Navlakha in New Delhi, Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad and Varavara Rao in Hyderabad. These activists are under house arrest till September 6, when the Supreme Court will hear their plea seeking a stay on their arrests.

In June, Rona Wilson, lawyer Surendra Gadling, professor Shoma Sen and activists Mahesh Raut and Sudhir Dhawale were arrested from Mumbai, Nagpur and Delhi. The police labelled them “urban Maoist operatives” and claimed to have found evidence of a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.