SC: Prof Sundar can’t be arrested without a month’s notice

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Chhattisgarh government to give a four-week notice before arresting Delhi University (DU) professor Nandini Sundar, accused in a murder case. "As of today, you do not want to proceed but you take a decision to proceed against them in the case, then you will have to serve an advance notice to them," a Bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and AK Goel said.The Bench's decision comes days after the Chhattisgarh police accused Sundar, along with Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) professor Archana Prasad, activist Vineet Tiwari, Chhattisgarh Communist Party of India (Marxist) State Secretary Sanjay Parate and two others in a murder case. While submitted "incriminating" documents against the accused in a sealed envelope, the state government told the Bench that the state police will not "touch" the activists without the approval of the top court. Representing the state, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the activists would neither be interrogated nor be arrested without prior notice. While recording Mehta's submissions, the Bench observed that there was no need to go through the sealed documents and directed the state government to give a month's notice, if it intended to take any action against the accused. While seeking quashing of the FIR in the matter, Ashok Desai, representing Sundar, submitted that his client was falsely implicated by Inspector General (IG) of Police (Bastar Range) SRP Kalluri. He added that such action would severely hamper the ongoing peace process in the state. "To link her to the unfortunate death is not only absurd but malicious. IG Kalluri claims that he had some complaints against Sundar in May itself. But he chose to link her to the murder as an afterthought," Desai said. Desai also brought to the court's attention a news article that quoted the IG as saying that he will not allow Sundar to enter Bastar and and that people would stone her. Responding to court's observation that the government should explore ways for peaceful resolution of the Naxal problem, Desai suggested that perhaps retired Supreme Court judge Justice Gopal Gowda could be requested to mediate between the state and the armed Naxal groups. The court, however, refused to take the proposal on record when the state submitted that the government was taking all steps to tackle the problem and there was no need for a mediator. To this, Desai quipped, "Is the FIR a part of the plan?" Meanwhile, the Apex Court allowed the activists to approach the Bench again, in case the Chhattisgarh government intended to take any action against them. "Once they issue notice, you come to us; we will protect you," Justice Goel assured Desai. Sundar, Prasad, Tiwari and Parate were part of a fact-finding team that looked at the impact of Maoist violence and state excesses on ordinary villagers in Bastar. They were accused for the murder of tribal Shamnath Baghel. In its FIR, the state booked them under sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder), 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 and 149 of Indian Penal Code (IPC). It was alleged that the accused, along with armed Naxals, killed Baghel with sharp weapons on November 4 at his home in Nama village of Chhattisgarh.

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