Bhima Koregaon case: NIA seeks recall of SC order on Navlakha’s house arrest
The NIA has sought the recall of a Supreme Court order directing activist Gautam Navlakha, 70, to be placed under house arrest, accusing him of suppressing material facts.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has sought the recall of a Supreme Court order directing activist Gautam Navlakha, 70, to be placed under house arrest, accusing him of suppressing material facts about the building being a public library registered in the name of a political party where ensuring the safety and security of the accused is “inconceivable”.
The agency has also sought the recall of a preceding September 29 order directing his medical examination at Jaslok hospital on grounds of bias.
The application was mentioned by solicitor general Tushar Mehta on Thursday before a bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, which directed the same to be taken up along with another application filed by Navlakha by a bench headed by justice KM Joseph. The order directing house arrest was passed on November 10 by a bench of justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy. Since Justice Joseph was sitting in a Constitution bench, the application was mentioned before a bench led by the CJI.
The NIA said that at the time of passing the house arrest order, Navlakha’s lawyers gave an impression that the said premises situated at Belapur in Navi Mumbai was a residential premises. However, on an inspection carried out by the NIA it was found to be an office-cum-library registered in the name of the Communist Party and named Comrade BT Randive Smruti Trust, Sector 29, Agroli Village, Konkan Bhawan, Belapur in Navi Mumbai.
Senior advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan appearing for Navlakha also sought an urgent listing of an application challenging an order passed by a special NIA court on Wednesday refusing to allow Navlakha to be moved to house arrest following the objections raised by the agency.
The special NIA court ordered, “Since there is a strong objection on the part of the prosecution against keeping the accused in the premises on account of safety and security of the accused, it would not be proper to keep the accused under house arrest in the said premises.”
Ramakrishnan said that “frivolous” objections are being raised by the NIA and informed the court that in compliance of the November 10 order, Navlakha had already deposited ₹2.40 lakh with the Navi Mumbai Police Commissioner as costs towards police escorts and security charges. He requested for his immediate shifting from jail as he had also installed CCTV cameras at the entry points of the building.
His lawyers communicated to the NIA a list of two relatives and two lawyers to be allowed to visit during the house arrest under the provisions of the jail manual.
The NIA application said Navlakha told the court while passing the order that the said house belonged to one Naresh Patil and accordingly, the court had imposed restrictions on his stay and even permitted his 71-year-old partner to stay with him, bearing in mind that the premises were a residential house or flat.
“To the shock of respondents, the respondents discovered that the said premises is a public library having a ground floor, hall on the first floor, an open terrace, and three entrances through the main gate,” the application by the NIA said. The said Naresh Patil is the manager of the building which is registered in the name of a Kohlapur resident Uday Narkar, secretary of the Communist Party for Maharashtra, the NIA said.
Alleging that the accused did not approach the court with clean hands, the NIA said, “The suggestion of petitioner for house arrest to be carried out in the so-called house of Naresh Patil was clearly another attempt to mislead this court, abuse the process of this court and to avail extraordinary relief, otherwise not available to petitioner.”
The agency also sought the recall of the court’s September 29 order directing Navlakha’s medical examination at Jaslok hospital. The NIA said the medical report suffered from “personal bias” as Navlakha’s brother-in-law is a senior doctor at Jaslok, a fact he did not disclose to the court while preferring to be examined there.
Navlakha was arrested in April 2020 by the NIA for his alleged role in fomenting violence in Maharashtra’s Bhima Koregaon village on January 1, 2018.
The top court allowed Navlakha to be kept in house arrest for one month owing to his advanced age, health ailments, absence of criminal antecedents and a medical report prepared by a team of doctors at Jaslok hospital who advised him to use a bed and mattress due to age-related deterioration in his spine, cervical spondylitis and high blood pressure. The Bombay high court had refused his plea for house arrest on April 26.
The November 10 order permitted Navlakha to stay with his partner, aged 71, who was allowed to keep a basic mobile phone. He was not permitted use of the internet, a phone or other communication devices. The court permitted the NIA to keep his partner’s phone on surveillance and allowed security personnel posted at the house to conduct a search in the event of any grave suspicion but not as a ruse to harass the accused.