Romila Thapar & ors. v/s Union of India & ors. (Case Analysis)

  • Anoushka Saha
  • April 17, 2020

Content :

Case Analysis prepared by Anoushka Saha
Romila Thapar & ors. v Union of India & ors. 
(Writ Petition (Crl.) no. 260 of 2018 decided on 28.09.2018)
Petitioner- Romila Thapar and ors. 
Respondent - Union of India and ors. 
Judges - Deepak Mishra (CJI), A.M.Khanwilkar and Justice DY. Chandrachud. 


This case is one of the landmark cases when it comes to "arresting activists". The Court has accessed the arrest of five human right activists by the Maharashtra Police under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) under the Indian Penal Code. It was filed under the Public Interest Litigation. The petitioners have claimed that the Maharashtra Police has forged these five people were involved in the Bhima Koregaon violence and sedition. Here, it was prayed by the petitioners that the enquiry should be done by the Special Investigation Team. 


1. On 28th August 2018 five well known human right activists, journalists, advocates and political leaders were arrested by Maharashtra Police from their homes without any credible materials and evidence against them. 
2. The accused persons (Romila Thapar, Devika Jain, Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande & Maja Dharuwala) were arrested in the involvement with the Bhima Koregaon violence. 
3. According to the petitioners, this action was taken to stop people from helping the poor and to create a fear in the minds of the people and also to divert the people\'s attention from real issues. 
4. The Police asserted that these five human right activists were in connection with the Communist Party of India (Maoist) which is a banned organisation under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). 
5. Therefore, the petitioners had approached the Supreme Court of India in a Writ Petition under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, challenging the arrest of 5 activists and argued that the state had arbitrarily made the arrest which violated Article 14,19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. 
6. Even a PIL was filed by Romila Thapar and four others challenging the unlawful arrest. 
7. In the petition, the petitioners had prayed for a Special Investigation Team (SIT) for the enquiry of the matter. 


1. Will the court allow a Special Investigation Team to formulate?
2. Can a behest of the next friend of the accused can entertain the same prayer? 
3. Can the accused persons be released after the impression of being trapped in? 


1. It was argued by the petitioners that the State frivolously made the arrest which violated Article 14,19 & 21 of the Indian Constitution which assured the citizens of equality before law, free expression & personal liberty. 
2. The petitioners made a contention on their perception that the accused persons were well respected social activists and the arrest was not to stop their voices against the Government but to instigate the violence. 
3. There was a misuse of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against the accused persons. 
4. Lack of evidence and no legal criminal history was found in relation to any involvement in the violence. 
5. Even a FIR on 8th January 2018 & 28th August 2018 was made against this incident of violence. 
6. According to them, police had wilfully framed the social activist in order to distract the people from real culprits, to stop the voices and to instigate the violence. 


1. The Respondent argued that the arrest was made on the basis of evidence found against them.
2. It was proved in the investigation that accused persons have connections with Maoist (Communist Party of India).
3. It was claimed by the Respondent that they gall were the active members in the conspiracy of Bhima Koregaon violence.
4. Many criminal proceedings in the past were found against the accused social activist. 
5. According to the Respondent, many documents were found which proved the active participation of the activists against the country. 


1. The Supreme Court of India has observed in Narmada Bai v. State of Gujarat and ors. that the petitioners cannot choose the investigation agency of their own choice. 
2. It was also held that the case is only about the link with the banned terrorist organisation not about different views and ideology. 
3. By 2:1 majority judgement, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition for SIT (Special Investigation Team). 
4. The house arrest was extended by the Supreme Court for 4 weeks from the date of judgment so that the activists can bail in lower courts. 
5. The Pune Trail Court rejected the bail plea and the Hyderabad High Court extended the house arrest. 
6. The Apex Court held that remedies are available at various stages of investigation by the accused. 
7. The petition was rejected by the Court and given the power to the investigating officer to take actions according to the law. 


In the recent era, the citizens realized their rights and equal protection of law. Now, the citizens can test equal citizenship by the application of civil and personal liberties in the nation as an index. This case has empowered one to re-check the delicate nature of protection regarding the freedom of speech and expression when it clashes with the State.