Supreme Court to hear Gautam Navlakha’s house arrest pleas on Friday

Updated on Nov 17, 2022 02:13 PM IST

A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, directed both the applications to be taken up by a bench of justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy that had directed to keep 70-year-old Navlakha under house arrest starting November 10

Supreme Court of India. (PTI Photo)
Supreme Court of India. (PTI Photo)
ByAbraham Thomas

The Supreme Court will on Friday take up separate applications moved by civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha, in which he alleged delay to implement the top court’s order permitting his house arrest, and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) opposing to shift him to the designated house claiming security risk.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, directed both the applications to be taken up by a bench of justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy that had directed to keep 70-year-old Navlakha under house arrest starting November 10.

On Tuesday, the court modified its earlier order and waived off the condition of surety to furnish solvency certificate and ration card as additional proof of identity and enable early shifting of Navlakha from Taloja Central Jail to a house in Belapur in Navi Mumbai.

On Wednesday, an NIA court in Mumbai refused to permit the house arrest after the central probe agency objected to the property in question for it being the library-cum office of the Communist Party of India. The property, called the Comrade BT Ranadive Smriti Trust building in Agroli village, is meant to house Navlakha for one month. His room was supposed to be above the library.

Also Read:Navlakha’s house arrest delayed over safety now

Appearing for Navlakha, senior advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan sought urgent listing of the application and accused the NIA of delaying the house arrest order over “frivolous” objections. As per the November 10 order, the NIA has not undertaken the requisite screening process of the property in question that was required to be done within 48 hours.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the NIA, objected to the application stating that Navlakha is accused of having Maoist links. He informed the apex court that the investigating agency is also in the process of filing an application.

“If their application is allowed, my application will become infructuous. He has given the office-cum-library address of CPI. Let both these matters be listed on Monday,” he said.

Since justice Joseph was heading a Constitution bench on Thursday, and as a convention no urgent mentioning of cases is permitted before Constitution benches, Ramakrishnan approached the CJI.

The bench, also comprising justices Hima Kohli and JB Pardiwala, told NIA to file its application by today and directed both applications (by Navlakha and NIA) to be listed together on Friday before a bench headed by justice Joseph.

The special NIA court on Wednesday went with the probe agency’s objection and ordered, “Since there is a strong objection on the part of the prosecution against keeping the accused in the premises on account of safety and security of the accused, it would not be proper to keep the accused under house arrest in the said premises.”

In compliance with the November 10 order of the Supreme Court, Navlakha already deposited 2.40 lakh with the Navi Mumbai Police Commissioner as costs towards police escorts and security charges.

Navlakha’s lawyers even communicated to the NIA a list of two relatives and two lawyers to be allowed to visit during his house arrest, according to the provisions of the Jail Manual.

The activist is facing charges under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for his alleged role in fomenting violence in Maharashtra’s Bhima Koregaon village on 1 January 2018. The NIA arrested him in connection with this case in April 2020 and accused him of having links with banned left-wing outfit – Communist Party of India (Maoist).

The top court allowed Navlakha to be kept under house arrest for one month because of his age, health issues, absence of criminal antecedents, and a medical report prepared by a team of doctors at Jaslok hospital who advised him to use a bed and mattress due to spine ailments, cervical spondylitis and high blood pressure. The Bombay high court had refused his plea for house arrest on April 26.

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