Human rights activist Gautam Navlakha at his residence after he was arrested by the Pune police in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence, in New Delhi on Tuesday.(PTI File Photo)
Human rights activist Gautam Navlakha at his residence after he was arrested by the Pune police in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence, in New Delhi on Tuesday.(PTI File Photo)

Delhi HC says activist Gautam Navlakha to be released from house arrest

Gautam Navlakha was among the five rights activists who were arrested by the Maharashtra police in country-wide raids on August 28 for their alleged links with a banned Maoist group.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Richa Banka
UPDATED ON OCT 01, 2018 11:50 PM IST

The Delhi high court set activist Gautam Navlakha free on Monday as it set aside his transit remand order issued by a trial court. The development came days after the Supreme Court refused to set up an special investigation team (SIT) over the arrest of Navlakha and four other activists in connection with the violence in Bhima Koregaon.

Pointing out glaring lapses in the transit order passed by the chief metropolitan magistrate on August 28, a bench of justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel quashed the transit remand order holding that it was “unsustainable” and there was non-compliance with the basic requirements of law and the Constitution that are “mandatory in nature”.

“With there being several non-compliances of the mandatory requirement of Article 22 (1), Article 22 (2) of the Constitution and Section 167 read with Section 57 and 41 (1) (ba) of the Cr PC, which are mandatory in nature, it is obvious to this Court that the order passed by the learned CMM on 28th August, 2018 granting transit remand to the Petitioner is unsustainable in law.

The said order is accordingly hereby set aside,” the court said in its 26-page order.

The bench also ended the house arrest of Navlakha stating that his detention had exceeded 24 hours, which is “untenable” because the transit remand order has been set aside.

“In view of the section 56 read with section 57 of the CrPC, in absence of remand order, the detention of the petitioner which has exceeded 24 hours is again untenable in law. Consequently the house arrest of the petitioner comes to an end now,” the court said in its oral order.

Reacting to this development, Navlakha thanked the high court and said he was “thrilled to no end”.

He said he had no grudge as the period of house arrest was put to good use, despite restrictions.

The bench said the magistrate granting the transit remand “is required to apply his mind to ensure that there exists material in the form of entries in the case diary that justifies the prayer for transit remand”.

Navlakha and four others — Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves — were arrested in a nationwide crackdown on August 28 over alleged Maoist links. The raids were part of a probe into a conclave, Elgar Parishad, held in Bhima Koregaon near Pune on December 31, 2017 that allegedly triggered violence the very next day.

“The departure from the mandatory requirement of the Constitution and the CrPC ought not to be lightly countenanced. In the present case for instance the FIR having been registered in January 2018, there was sufficient time available with the Maharashtra Police to anticipate the legal requirement and comply with it,” the bench said.

The high court struck down a request by the counsel for the Maharashtra government seeking to extend the house arrest till Wednesday. It said such a submission overlooks the fact that the apex court had given time to the arrested persons to avail various legal remedies under the law.

Navlakha’s counsel informed the court that her client was not even explained the grounds of arrest, neither was he given a formal intimation.

Accepting this submission, the court said that under the provisions of Article 22 (1) of the constitution, the arrested person has to be informed of the grounds of such arrest, which was not done.

“The mere intimation of the arrest to the partner/friend of the arrested person does not satisfy the requirement of law,” the court said.

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