SC extends stay on bail granted to Gautam Navlakha in Bhima-Koregaon case | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

SC extends stay on bail granted to Gautam Navlakha in Bhima-Koregaon case

ByAbraham Thomas
Jan 05, 2024 03:41 PM IST

Navlakha was arrested in April 2020 in connection with the 2018 violence case in Maharashtra and is accused of having links with banned Naxal organisation CPI(Maoist)

The Supreme Court on Friday extended the stay on a Bombay high court order that granted bail to activist Gautam Navlakha in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case following a request by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Activist Gautam Navlakha. (AP File Photo)
Activist Gautam Navlakha. (AP File Photo)

The court referred the agency’s appeal to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) after being told that similar bail matters of other accused in the same Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case are pending before other benches of the top court.

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The NIA had appealed challenging the December 19 order of the Bombay HC that granted bail to the 72-year-old activist. The HC had suspended its order for three weeks so that the NIA could file an appeal in the top court, which was about to lapse on January 9.

“Since the high court by its order of December 19 has stayed its decision for three weeks, the same stands extended till the CJI allocates the matter before a bench,” the SC bench of justices MM Sundresh and SVN Bhatti said on Friday.

The court did not issue notice on the appeal after a dispute arose between Navlakha’s lawyers, led by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, demanding that the matter be heard with one set of petitions where bail was granted to three accused persons in the Bhima-bKoregaon violence case – Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Fereira and Anand Teltumbde.

Representing the NIA, additional solicitor general (ASG) SV Raju urged the court to list the matter with a similar appeal filed by the agency challenging the bail granted to another accused Mahesh Raut. In September, the Bombay HC had granted bail to Raut and the same month, the NIA approached the apex court and got the stay on his release extended. This matter is still pending for consideration in the top court.

The lawyers appearing for both sides informed the court that these matters are pending before different benches. Senior advocate Nithya Ramakrishnan pointed out that Navlakha is currently under house arrest following an SC order passed in November 2022, and even that matter was pending with the top court.

Two days ago, the bail plea of former Delhi university professor Hany Babu, another accused in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case, was listed before a bench headed by justice Aniruddha Bose where a notice was issued, and the matter deferred for three weeks.

“This matter is pending before several benches,” Singhvi said.

The court in response said, “We direct the Registry to place this matter before the Chief Justice of India to consider the feasibility of having the matter placed with other similar cases.”

The bench was of the view that all matters should be posted before one bench.

Navlakha was arrested in April 2020 in connection with the 2018 violence case in Maharashtra and is accused of having links with banned Naxal organisation – Communist Party of India (Maoist). He faces charges under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Since 10 November 2022, the top court has allowed him to remain under house arrest owing to health-related issues.

The Bhima-Koregaon case pertains to alleged inflammatory speeches made at an Elgar Parishad conclave in Pune on 31 December 2017, which the police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Bhima-Koregaon war memorial. One person was killed in the incident.

Navlakha’s lawyers pointed out that there was no way in which the trial could begin soon as there are 317 witnesses and charges are yet to be framed. Singhvi submitted that in UAPA offences, if the commencement of trial is not in sight, it will be a ground to grant bail.

The high court, while granting bail to Navlakha, had directed him to furnish a personal bond of 1 lakh. It imposed the same bail conditions on Teltumbde and Raut, who were released on bail on 18 November 2022 and 21 September 2023, respectively.

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