SC pulls up NIA over attempts to link Navlakha with anti-national activities
The Supreme Court put the NIA in the dock over its attempts to link civil rights activist and Bhima-Koregaon case accused Gautam Navlakha with a series of anti-national activities.
The country is getting destroyed by people who are corrupt but can “merrily” get away because of their “money bags”, the Supreme Court observed on Wednesday, as it put the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the dock over its attempts to link civil rights activist and Bhima-Koregaon case accused Gautam Navlakha with a series of anti-national activities.
Hearing Navlakha’s plea to place him under house-arrest instead of a jail owing to his deteriorating health, a bench of justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy threw a volley of questions at NIA which resisted Navlakha’s plea citing some documents to connect him with Maoist activities and Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
ut the bench was not convinced with the documents shown to it by Raju. “Are you going to convict him based on this local court order of US? Is it really possible for NIA to secure a conviction of this man in India under the Indian laws on the basis of a district court order from US? Where is the link between Navlakha and ISI? We may not know but you will have to tell us on what basis you are going to train your guns at him under the NIA Act.”
Going through the letters exchanged between Navlakha and other accused in the case, including the late Stan Swamy and Sudha Bhardwaj, the bench questioned the ASG: “Can you convict him for writing ‘dear comrade’? You will have to tell us something more. He is a 70-year-old man. Nobody knows how long he will live. Nobody at this age can foresee that. We agree that we have to be very careful and that’s why we are saying put whatever restrictions you want,” it added.
Raju, on his part, argued that there cannot be a close monitoring on activities of someone who is under house-arrest and that the allegations of his involvement in anti-national activities cannot be taken lightly.
The bench said: “It’s not that they want to destroy this country.” But the ASG retorted that the accused like Navlakha do want to destroy the country.
“Do you want to know who is destroying this country? People who are corrupt. Every office you go into, what happens? Who takes action against them? We should not appear to be biased but we recently saw a video where there are talks of crores being offered to elected representatives. Are you saying that’s good?” the bench asked Raju, who replied that he was not defending the corrupt .
To this, the court added: “The point is that you don’t defend them but they go on merrily. They have the money bags and they can get away with it. That’s what happens.”
The bench said that it is “very hurt” when soldiers lose their lives whether in a genuine encounter or a fake encounter but the facts on record show that Navlakha was just a part of a fact-finding team which wanted to look into genuineness of some encounters and his involvement had to be read in that context.
“Should we not, for whatever it is worth, grant his measure of related freedom? We will see nothing happens to the contrary to the interest of this country. He will lose his freedom if anything of that sort happens... We are concerned about his age and it’s not as if he is in the best of his health...this court has already held that house arrest is also a form of judicial custody. It’s not like we are granting him bail,” the bench remarked.
The ASG, on his part, insisted that there is nothing seriously wrong with Navlakha’s medical conditions and that he would be provided all aid inside the Taloja Jail in Mumbai where he is presently lodged.
At this point, the bench adjourned the case for Friday, asking Raju to come back ready with a list of restrictions NIA would want against Navlakha if the court finally decided to allow his plea for house arrest.
Navlakha approached the top court after the Bombay high court rejected his request on April 26 finding that his demand for house arrest did not meet the requirements prescribed under a 2021 Supreme Court decision.
The activist is facing serious charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for his alleged links with banned Maoist organization – Communist Party of India (Maoist).
Navlakha is among the activists, lawyers, poets and scholars arrested by NIA in connection with alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017. This, the police claimed, triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city, leading to death of one person and injuries to several others. NIA claims the accused have Maoist links and indulged in anti-national activities.
Navlakha was in house arrest for a period of 34 days beginning August 28, 2018. On October 10, 2018, the Delhi High Court set aside the order of the magistrate placing him under house arrest as illegal. During the period of house arrest, he was not allowed to meet anybody and even NIA did not have access to him. After NIA took over the probe from Maharashtra police in January 2020, he was taken into police custody on April 14, 2020 and remained in the custody of NIA till April 25, 2020. Following this, he was shifted to the jail.