SC dismisses bail plea of activist Gautam Navlakha in Bhima Koregaon case

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a plea of activist Gautam Navlakha, seeking bail in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist link case of Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra.

A bench of justices UU Lalit and K M Joseph dismissed the appeal of Navlakha against the Bombay High Court order denying him bail in the case.

Justice Joseph, who pronounced the verdict for the bench, said the court is dismissing the appeal of Navlakha.

On March 26, the top court had reserved its verdict on a plea of Navlakha.

The top court had on March 3 sought response from the NIA on Navlakha’s plea in which he has claimed that the charge sheet was not filed within the stipulated time period and hence, he was entitled for default bail.

The FIR against him was re-registered in January 2020, and Navlakha had surrendered before the NIA on April 14, last year.

He had spent 11 days in the NIA’s custody till April 25, and since then he is in judicial custody.

According to the prosecution, some activists allegedly made inflammatory speeches and provocative statements at the Elgar Parishad meet in Pune on December 31, 2017, which triggered violence at Koregaon Bhima in the district the next day.

It has also alleged that the event was backed by some Maoist groups.

On February 8, the high court had dismissed Navlakha’s plea saying that “it sees no reason to interfere with a special court’s order which earlier rejected his bail plea”.

Navlakha had approached the high court last year, challenging the special NIA court’s order of July 12, 2020 that rejected his plea for statutory bail.

On December 16 last year, the high court bench reserved its verdict on the plea filed by Navlakha, seeking statutory or default bail on the grounds that he had been in custody for over 90 days, but the prosecution failed to file a charge sheet in the case within this period.

The NIA had argued that his plea was not maintainable, and sought an extension of time to file the charge sheet.

The special court had then accepted NIA’s plea seeking extension of 90 to 180 days to file the charge sheet against Navlakha and his co-accused, activist Dr Anand Teltumbde.

Navlakha had earlier already argued that he has spent 93 days in custody, including 34 days of house arrest, and that the high court must count house arrest as a period of custody.

While he was under house arrest, Navlakha’s personal liberties remained curtailed, his counsel had submitted.

The NIA had earlier argued that Navlakha’s house arrest could not be included in the time spent in the custody of police or NIA, or under judicial custody.

It had submitted that the Pune police arrested Navlakha in August 2018, but had not taken him into custody.

It had said that Navlakha remained under house arrest, and the Delhi High Court quashed his arrest and remand order in October 2018.


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