Within hours of Dalit scholar Anand Teltumbde's arrest in the Elgar Parishad case on Saturday, a local court held Pune Police's action had violated the Supreme Court's order and he should be released immediately.
Teltumbde, a professor at the Goa Institute of Management, was arrested at the Mumbai airport in early hours after he arrived from Kerala.
Additional Sessions Judge Kishor Vadane said the apex court, while rejecting Teltumbde's plea seeking to quash the FIR against him earlier, had given him protection from arrest till February 11 so that he could approach the 'competent authority' for appropriate legal relief.
The competent authority includes high court as well as the Supreme Court, it said.
Therefore, arresting him before the protection period ended was 'illegal' and also amounted to contempt of the Supreme Court's order and he should be released immediately, the court said.
The sessions court had Friday rejected Teltumbde's anticipatory bail application.
"Since his pre-arrest bail plea was rejected, we decided to arrest him," Assistant Commissioner of Police Shivaji Pawar, who is investigating the case, had said.
According to Pune Police, Maoists had supported the Elgar Parishad conclave held here on December 31, 2017, and the inflammatory speeches there led to violent clashes at the Koregaon Bhima war memorial the next day.
They also claimed to have seized, during the probe, letters linking Teltumbde and some other Left-wing activists to Maoists.
Following Teltumbde's arrest, his lawyer Rohan Nahar again moved the Pune court.
Teltumbde was produced before judge Vadane in heavy police security. Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar was also present in the courtroom.
"The entire police exercise of arresting my client is illegal and it is a contempt of the SC order," Nahar said.
Public prosecutor Ujjwala Pawar said the apex court had said 'when the accused approached this court, the interim protection extinguished and therefore police action is justified'.
After the court denied him bail Friday, he should have sought time to move a higher court, which he did not, she said.
But the court did not accept this argument and ordered Teltumbde's release.
Earlier in the day, senior advocate Indira Jaising took to Twitter, saying his arrest 'at 3.30 am' was a contempt of the order of the Supreme Court.
The Pune court, while rejecting Teltumbde's bail plea, had observed Friday that investigating officers had collected sufficient material to show his involvement in 'alleged commission of the offence'.
Talking to reporters outside the court Saturday, Teltumbde said he would now approach the high court or the apex court.
"I thought there is a rule of law in the country and we can question authorities. But in the present condition, whoever has the authority, they do not have accountability," he said, alleging that the case against him was part of the government's conspiracy.
Referring to the 'incriminating' correspondence cited by the prosecution, Teltumbde said with this kind of letters, anybody can be framed up and his life put in jeopardy.
Speaking to PTI, Prakash Ambedkar, a trained lawyer himself, said the 'competent authority' mentioned by the Supreme Court was a lower court as well as the high court and apex court.
Police's attitude was 'questionable', Ambedkar said, while pointing out that Teltumbde had written two articles criticising the Elgar Parishad.
"How can you say he is a Maoist and at the same time a critic of Elgar? This is self-contradictory," he said.