Bhima Koregaon case: SC alters conditions to facilitate house arrest
The Supreme Court on Tuesday waived the requirement of a solvency certificate in a case involving activist Gautam Navlakha who was allowed to be placed under house arrest
The Supreme Court on Tuesday waived the requirement of a solvency certificate in a case involving activist Gautam Navlakha, who received relief from the top court and was allowed to be placed under house arrest but whose release from jail was delayed over the certificate and other documents.
On November 10, the top court allowed Navlakha, 70, to be placed under house arrest for one month, accepting his plea to be taken out of Taloja Central Jail owing to ailments. Navlakha is an accused under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for his alleged role in fomenting violence in Maharashtra’s Bhima Koregaon village on January 1, 2018. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the case against him, accused him of having links with banned Maoist outfits.
But after the order, a district court in Belapur, Navi Mumbai, where he will be placed under house arrest, insisted that he submit a solvency certificate -- which is issued by revenue authorities testifying that the person standing surety has the requisite financial capacity -- a process that his lawyers said will delay his release by another six weeks.
”Considering the submission and the circumstances, we deem it appropriate to waive the requirement of a solvency certificate for the petitioner to avail the benefit of our order dated November 10,” said a bench of justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy.
The court also ruled on a demand by the district court for additional documents.
“Since other adequate security proofs such as passport, Aadhaar card and PAN card have been provided, the trial court should not insist on a ration card as an additional proof of identity for the benefit of this court’s order,” added the bench.
On November 10, the top court allowed Navlakha to be placed under house arrest, noting that he was 70, had health ailments and no past criminal antecedents. “To avail the facility of house arrest, the petitioner will provide local surety for a sum of ₹2 lakh by November 14, 2022,” the court had said.
But Navlakha’s lawyers told the top court on Tuesday that getting solvency certificate in Mumbai will delay the process by another six weeks. They further said that the trial court was insisting on submitting ration card as an additional proof of identity despite the person standing surety providing other documents such as Aadhaar, PAN card and passport.
Navlakha was arrested by NIA in April 2020 and since been lodged at Taloja Central Jail outside Mumbai. He was examined last month by a team of doctors who advised him to use a bed and mattress due to age-related deterioration in his spine, cervical spondylitis and high blood pressure. His plea for house arrest was turned down by the Bombay high court on April 26, and he filed an appeal in the top court.
The apex court imposed several conditions on the house arrest, forbidding him to use the internet, mobile phone, smart TV, or any communication device. The court permitted him to live with his 71-year-old partner who was allowed to keep a basic mobile phone that Navlakha could not use. The Court directed him to install CCTVs at the house and make an upfront payment of ₹2.40 lakh towards expenses of security personnel to be deployed by state outside the house.