Elgar Parishad case: HC rejects anticipatory bail pleas of Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde
Bombay High Court on Friday rejected the anticipatory bail applications of activist Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde in the Elgar Parishad case but gave them four weeks’ time to approach the Supreme Court.
Justice Prakash Naik extended the interim protection from arrest granted to both of them for four weeks.
Navlakha had approached the high court a day after a special Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) court in Pune rejected his anticipatory bail plea on November 12, 2019. Teltumbde had approached the court for pre-arrest bail in February 2019.
Both of them were booked by the Vishrambaug police station in Pune where a case was registered on January 8, 2018, on the basis of a complaint lodged by a local builder, Tushar Damgude.
Damgude alleged that members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and Kabir Kala Manch spread hatred through provocative songs, plays and speeches delivered at Elgar Parishad held at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which led to violence following the incident at Bhima-Koregaon.
The police later conducted searches at the residences of various activists and recovered a document, ‘Strategy and Tactics of The Indian Revolution’.
It allegedly said the motive of the banned terrorist organisation, CPI(Maoist), was to seize political power by organising people into an army and wiping out Indian armed forces through war and establish “people’s democratic state”.
Navlakha’s lawyer said there was absolutely no material to link the journalist-writer with the crimes and inadmissible electronic data was being portrayed as evidence. A pre-arrest bail was sought for him claiming that he was against Naxalite activities and was a “peace activist.”
The special court at Pune, however, rejected his anticipatory bail plea noting that the prosecution had sufficient material to show that Navlakha was “not only a member of the banned organisation but an active leader”.
“Prima facie, it can be noted that organisation of Elgar Parishad at Pune was part of the larger conspiracy of the banned organisation and the Bhima-Koregaon episode is one of the instances of the execution of the said conspiracy,” said the judge.
The special court also said the documents seized from the house search of some of the accused revealed a “deep-rooted conspiracy of extremely serious repercussions and the applicant (Navlakha) was a party to the said conspiracy”.
The case relates to the violence on New Year’s Day in 2018 on the banks of the Bhima river, where thousands of people, mostly Dalits, had gathered to mark the anniversary of an 1818 victory of the British Army, manned primarily by Dalit soldiers, over the Peshwa, the then rulers who instituted oppressive caste practises.
A group of unidentified men on motorcycles attacked the visitors and pelted stones, killing one person and injuring 40.
The police investigation initially pointed at far-right Hindu groups but then concentrated on the event called the Elgar Parishad on December 31, 2017. Police said the event was funded by Maoists, and that the provocative speeches made at the gathering triggered the clashes a day later.
In June and August of 2018, police arrested nine prominent activists and raided the homes of many others in Delhi, Mumbai and other cities.