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Dalit scholar freed as court calls airport arrest illegal

Anand Teltumbde was picked up from Mumbai airport and whisked off to Pune
SC had given him 4-week protection from arrest
Prakash Ambedkar shows support for him by attending Pune hearing

Prachee Kulkarni

Hours after Dalit scholar Anand Teltumbde was arrested at Mumbai airport over the Elgar Parishad case and whisked off to Pune on Saturday, a sessions court called the police action illegal and ordered that he be freed immediately.

Pune additional sessions judge KD Vadane said the Pune police’s step might be considered contempt of court as the Supreme Court had granted Teltumbde immunity from arrest till February 11.

Teltumbde is one of the activists who had attended the Elgar Parishad conclave in Pune on December 31, 2017. The police claim provocative comments made at the event triggered the Bhima Koregaon violence the next day. They have also linked him and nine other prominent figures — known for speaking up for the marginalised and criticising the BJP governments at the Centre and in state — to an alleged Maoist conspiracy. The case and the charges stemming from it have prompted claims that the ruling party is trying to stifle dissent.

Teltumbde, a professor at the Goa Institute of Management, arrived in Mumbai from Kochi, where had delivered a lecture, early on Saturday. He was looking for a cab at the airport when a team of Mumbai and Pune police arrested him. Facing charges in the Elgar Parishad case, he had planned to move an application for anticipatory bail in the Bombay High Court, after a Pune court turned down his request on Friday.

The Pune police viewed Friday’s development as an all-clear for them to arrest Teltumbde. From Mumbai airport, they took him to the Lashkar police station in Pune before producing him in the sessions court around 3 pm, nearly 12 hours after he was first picked up. Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar of the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh attended the hearing.

Teltumbde’s lawyer, Rohan Nahar, argued that the police’s action amounted to contempt of court. “The Supreme Court had given him protection from arrest for four weeks and this period ends on February 11. The order was not in anticipation of the lower court’s decision, it was applicable in a blanket manner,” he said, explaining that the sessions court’s refusal to grant anticipatory bail did not end the reprieve given by the top court. “The state and the investigating officer have disobeyed the order, which amounts to contempt of court.”

Special public prosecutor Ujjwala Pawar argued that the interim relief expired the moment Teltumbde approached the sessions court for anticipatory bail. And after this court ruled against his plea, the police were free to arrest him. “The protection given by the Supreme Court was only valid till he moved a competent court for seeking regular bail. This protection extinguished the moment he approached the sessions court. Therefore, this arrest is legal. The argument that it is illegal is a part of pressure tactics,” Pawar said.

After hearing the two sides, judge Vadane ruled in Teltumbde’s favour, ordering that he be freed. “The competent authority can be any court from sessions to the Supreme Court. Teltumbde had four-week protection to approach these. Hence this arrest is illegal and Teltumbde should be released immediately,” Vadane said.

According to Nahar, the sessions court will send a note of its order to the apex court. “We will pursue the matter further there,” he said.

The top court had earlier refused to quash the FIR against Teltumbade.

An official of the Mumbai police said on Saturday that it only assisted the Pune police. “On the request of the Pune Police, Teltumbde was detained at the airport around 3:30 am. We handed him over to them, following which he was taken to Pune. We had no other role in the matter,” the official said.

Many activists, including Prakash Reddy, Feroze Mithiborwala and JV Pawar, met at Ambedkar Bhavan in Dadar on Saturday evening to condemn Teltumbde’s arrest. They plan to stage a protest next week.

– WITH INPUTS BY SHRUTI GANAPATYE AND VINAY DALVI

L-R: Anand Teltumbde, a professor from the Goa Institute of Management, is being taken to a court in Pune on Saturday. He speaks to the media after being released by the judge

FROM A CAB SEARCH IN MUMBAI TO A COURT HEARING IN PUNE

Around 3:30 am: Professor Anand Teltumbde arrived in Mumbai from Kochi, where he had delivered a lecture. He was looking for a cab at the airport when a team of Mumbai and Pune police arrested him.

He was taken to Pune and held at the Lashkar police station.

Around 3 pm: He was produced in a sessions court, where the first round of arguments lasted for 45 minutes. Prakash Ambedkar (above right) attended the hearing. After a 30-min break, the hearing resumed.

4:30 pm: The judge called the arrest illegal, ordered his release.

5:30 pm: After competition of formalities, Teltumbde walked out.

Clear bid to target activists’

Prof says he was held despite clearing his stand on Elgar Parishad and getting SC relief

– PRACHEE KULKARNI

Shortly after his release, Anand Teltumbde reiterated that the Elgar Parishad case and his earlymorning arrest in Mumbai were attempts to target activists working for democratic rights. He told Mirror that intellectuals were preparing to approach the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the crackdown.

“I had delivered a memorial lecture in Kochi and landed in Mumbai on Saturday morning. I got a message that my anticipatory bail had been rejected on Friday. I came to Mumbai as I have to sign some documents for filing an application in the Bombay High Court. I did not expect this kind of reception at the airport,” he said. “I was looking for a cab at the airport when a policeman came to me and said, ‘Chala’. There is no person of my stature and expertise in the country; and if I am being treated like this, what can others expect?”

Clarifying that he was against the way Bhima Koregaon was used in Elgar Parishad, he said, “I visited the Elgar Parishad venue but I was there for only five minutes. I was there in personal capacity as my relatives were part of the organising team,” he said. About 150 scholars across the world have condemned the case against Teltumbde, expressing support for him.

Pune cops have cited letters and emails as evidence against him and other activists in the case. He said email communication cannot be produced the way cops have. “Email communication can never be produced because emails are supposed to be non-repudiation, which means you cannot deny you didn’t receive the email. While they can produce leaflets, emails cannot be produced,” said Teltumbde, who is an expert in big data analysis. “People are now preparing to challenge this (police case) in ICJ. This is getting exposed 

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