Bhima Koregaon | Gautam Navlakha Not Involved With Maoist Party, Rather Suspected By Them To Be A 'Govt Agent': Lawyer Tells Bombay High Court
The Communist Party of India (Maoist) suspected senior journalist Gautam Navlakha was a “government agent” who negatively impacted their movement, his counsel argued before the Bombay High Court on Monday.
He cited a document seized from co-accused researcher Rona Wilson's laptop to demonstrate the CPI(M)'s contempt for Navlakha is diametrically opposite from the UAPA charges NIA has levelled against him of “deep involvement in the activities of the CPI(Maoist) party,” and of connections with the ISI and separatist movement of Kashmir.
A division bench of Justices AS Gadkari and PD Naik was hearing the 74-year-old accused's bail appeal in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad Case. Navlakha was arrested in the case on April 14, 2020 but placed under house arrest by the Supreme Court last year.
“One of the surest signs of independence is being criticized and attacked by both sides,” Advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhry said, adding, the judges would know best as the judiciary is often accused of bias by the losing side.
Chaudhry submitted that the 10-page document was an internal report prepared by the Maoists on Navlakha as they suspected him of “turning completely against them” after he fulfilled his goal visiting the area and established himself as the authority on the Maoist movement in India and abroad.”
He explained Navlakha had been critical of Maoist ideology and had gone undercover to live and travel with the Maoists and later chronicled it in the Economic and Political Weekly.
The report narrates how Navlakha allegedly misguided the Hibul Mujahideen in Kashmir as well as the Maoists and created riffs between separatist leaders in the valley. Moreover, he was closely working with NN Vohra, former secretary of Defence ministry on a youth program called "Himayat' in Kashmir to change the ongoing discourse of Azadi to a discourse of 'peace' and rehabilitation.
According to the report, Navlakha’s partner Sabah has several Indian Government sponsored NGOs in Kashmir, wherein they would counsel the youth against taking up arms, the report said. It added that Navlakha worked closely with her on this project.
Navlakha was also accused of sabotaging the campaign to release Kashmiri separatist Afzal Guru, who was hanged to death in 2013.
Chaudhry submitted it was necessary to point out this report since the NIA would be relying heavily on un-dated letters allegedly retrieved from accused Rona Wilson’s laptop. “This is a foundational document. This makes it very clear he was not a party member but someone they suspected as an ‘enemy.’
At the outset, Chaudhry said he was specifically seeking bail on four grounds. The first being that no offence under Chapter IV was made out in the case. “There is not a single allegation of committing any act of violence, of abetting to commit any act of violence or conspiring to commit any act of violence. If there is no allegation, then no offence punishable under chapter IV of UAPA is made out.”
“There is no description of a 'terrorist act’ in this 54 volume chargesheet," Chaudhry pointed out and further said the NIA keeps harping on the ‘Maoist constitution’ seized from Navlakha.
“Can that be a terrorist act?” Chaudhary asked rhetorically. He added that the other grounds for Navlakha’s bail included an already delayed trial and the improbability of a conclusion in the near future.
“My discharge application was argued months ago, the PP hasn’t even started arguing. Till today, under section 207 of the CrPC they’ve not given clone copies of evidence," Chaudhry said. He further pointed out that there hadn’t been a single complaint against Navlakha after the Supreme Court ordered his house arrest.
However, the court observed that Navlakha could have created the document to save himself during the raid. Chaudhry pointed out that there was no reason for the other documents to be left behind. “If this was prepared fearing an impending raid, he would not keep it alongside documents that incriminate him heavily...”
Hearing will continue today.
Navlakha surrendered on April 14, 2020 after his anticipatory bail application was rejected by the Supreme Court. The case against him and his co-accused pertains to the Elgaar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017 and the violence that followed a day later. Police had alleged that the event was funded by Maoists. On November 24, 2022 the Supreme Court directed him to be placed under house arrest.