'Prima Facie There Is Nothing Against Gautam Navlakha': Bombay HC; Extends Interim Protection From Arrest [Read Order]

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday prima facie observed that based on the documents submitted, there was nothing against 65-year-old activist Gautam Navlakha who has been accused by the state of having Maoist links.

The Division Bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice Bharati Dangre was hearing a writ petition filed by Navlakha seeking to quash the FIR filed against him by the Pune police following the Bhima Koregaon violence that took place on January 1, 2018.

The police have alleged that the violence took place as a result of a conclave organized by Elgar Parishad on December 31, 2017. The conclave was organised to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon Bhima that took place between the British East India Company and the Peshwa faction of the Maratha empire.

Navlakha's counsel Dr.Yug Mohit Chaudhary submitted that the prosecution had taken unsigned letters from Navlakha's laptop as evidence and alleged that they have been written by Sudarshan, member of CPI (Maoist) Central Committee.

Addressing APP Aruna S Pai Justice More orally observed :

"There is nothing against him (Navlakha) in any of the letters. We are of the prima facie opinion that there is nothing against him based on the documents submitted to us."

Dr. Chaudhary submitted-

"He was in the past appointed a mediator by the government of India when Naxals had kidnapped six policemen. He is in contact with Naxals but that is only for his books and other fact-finding researches. How can this contact attract provisions of UAPA?"

"Navlakha has made democracy possible for those living in the margins. Such a person should be cherished and celebrated. But the government is persecuting him with charges like waging war against the nation and sedition," argued Chaudhary.

APP Pai told the Court that apart from the documents that have already been submitted, there is more material that she wishes to place before the Court in a sealed envelope.

Court perused through the same and Dr.Chaudhary opposed this course of action and sought access to the material on which State was relying upon.

When the Court asked APP Pai whether the same can be made available to the petitioner, she said she will have to take instructions from the investigating officer who is currently in Ranchi and will only be available on June 14.

Thus, the Court returned the sealed envelope and deferred the hearing till June 18, 2019 at 3 pm. Interim protection from arrest granted has also been extended till the said date.

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