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Bhima Koregaon Case : Bombay High Court Dismisses Gautam Navlakha's Plea To Shift Him To House Arrest

Sharmeen Hakim
26 April 2022 9:35 AM GMT
Bhima Koregaon Case : Bombay High Court Dismisses Gautam Navlakhas Plea To Shift Him To House Arrest
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The Bombay High Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition by senior journalist Gautam Navlakha seeking to shifted out of Taloja Prison and be placed under house arrest, instead, in the Bhima Koregaon – Elgar Parishad Caste violence case. A division bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and GA Sanap said that whatever grievances Navlakha had in prison could be placed before the trial court...

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition by senior journalist Gautam Navlakha seeking to shifted out of Taloja Prison and be placed under house arrest, instead, in the Bhima Koregaon – Elgar Parishad Caste violence case.

A division bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and GA Sanap said that whatever grievances Navlakha had in prison could be placed before the trial court for appropriate action.

"Petitioner would be at liberty to bring to the attention of presiding officer of special NIA court the grievances in respect of difficulties faced by him and the said officer directed to ensure grievance redressed within parameters of law."

Navlakha had approached the court early last year seeking house arrest. He cited the lack of medical facilities at Taloja Prison, where he is lodged, and the Supreme Court's observations while rejecting his default bail plea in May 2021.

The apex court had observed that in appropriate cases, under section 167 of the CrPC, the court may order house arrest considering the accused's age, health, and antecedents. Navlakha, asserted that he falls squarely within this definition.

However, during the hearing the bench wondered how such a request could be granted in the absence of a procedure or statute for the same. It had also come down heavily on the Maharashtra Government officials for their callousness in dealing with serious allegations against officials of Taloja Prison, which were levelled by Navlakha.

Representing Navlakha, Advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhry along with Advocate Payoshi Roy told that court that Navlakha has no antecedents, "not even a case for double parking." On the other hand he had a "long and illustrious career." He was a senior journalist once associated the with the Economic Press Weekly.

The septuagenarian had developed chronic back pain but was denied a chair, Chaudhry had argued adding that these were important circumstances making out a case for house arrest.

He read a complaint written by Navlakha, in which he wrote, "I don't want to die like Father Stan. I want to live so that I can clear my name, stand trial and prove my innocence."

Chaudhry said the trial would take years to be completed as all the forensic evidence is still not on record. Moreover, there is severe overcrowding in Taloja Prison with 2,766 inmates despite an official capacity of 2,124.

Conversely, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh along with Advocate Sandesh Patil argued that Granting house arrested would set a "bad instance and the same cannot be justified as it sets an untimely, and unapt precedent." Seeking house arrest was as good as seeking regular bail. Therefore, an alternate relief under a writ petition could not be sought if there are provisions for bail, NIA stated.

Moreover, the NIA had contended that the petition was not sustainable under Articles 226, 14, 19 and section 482 of the CrPC. According to the agency, Article 226 can only be invoked to enforce rights under Part III. It can be invoked only in exceptional circumstances. Section 482 of the CrPC is used to curtail abuse process of law. But in the absence of a law for house arrest, 482 cannot be invoked.

The septuagenarian, along with 14 other civil liberties activists, is accused under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for allegedly furthering the banned CPI(M)'s agenda and conspiring to overthrow the government. Evidence in the case is mainly in electronic form.

The NIA accused them of instigating the caste violence that erupted at Bhima Koregaon, a war memorial cite in Pune, on January 1, 2018.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 161



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