SR Navander, Additional Sessions Judge, Pune on Tuesday rejected journalist Gautam Navlakha's anticipatory bail application and noted that custodial interrogation of the applicant is necessary as the police has been trying to arrest Navlakha since 2018.
Navlakha has been chargesheeted by the Pune Police for commission of offences punishable under Sections 121, 121A, 124A, 153A, 505(1)(b), 117, 120B read with 34 of the Indian Penal Code and under Sections 13, 16, 17, 18, 18B, 20, 38, 39, 40 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, as amended in 2008 and 2012, along with other accused.
"The investigating machinery is making efforts to arrest the applicant for custodial interrogation since August 2018. However, the applicant was getting protection from higher courts either in the matter of quashing for FIR or in the matter of challenging the legality of his previous arrest. It is the fact that the investigating machinery could not interrogate him effectively till this day. From the above facts, what is transpired is that unless the applicant is taken in custody and interrogated thoroughly it is not possible to go to the root of the case and to trace out the different links which have been traced in the letter communication of the members of the banned organization.
In view of the above observations, I found that custodial interrogation of the applicant is necessary and hence no anticipatory bail can be granted at this stage."
Navlakha's lawyer Ragini Ahuja submitted that there is absolutely no material with the prosecution to connect the accused with commission of offence as alleged, either in the FIR or in the charge sheet. The seized electronic data is inadmissible in evidence, the applicant is a renowned journalist and a writer by profession and although he studied the Maoist ideology, he was in fact against the Naxalite activities undertaken by the organization. She pointed out that the applicant was appointed as interlocutor by the Government and that he is a peace activist.
She further argued that even if the material produced by prosecution is taken into account, what can be gathered is that the applicant is a member of CPI (Maoist) and a human rights activist, that itself is not a crime. Ahuja relied upon Apex Court's observations in the case of Arun Bhuyan vs.State of Assam and in Indra Das Vs. State of Assam, to support her submissions.
State prosecutor opposed bail application on the ground that no anticipatory bail can be granted as per Section 43D(4) of the UAPA Act. It was submitted on behalf of the State that the Central Government passed an order to add the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and all its formation and frontal organizations as terrorist organizations by making corresponding amendment under UAPA.
She further submitted that the applicant was not merely a passive but active member of the banned organization. There is sufficient material against him to show his involvement in the larger conspiracy. She referred to certain letters seized from the computers and electronic devices of other accused during search to show how the present accused was and is involved in functioning of the banned organization and the severity of the conspiracy.
Prosecution relied upon a document recovered from accused Varvara Rao's residence entitled 'Strategy and Tactics of the Indian Revolution' which talks about a revolution in villages and remote areas, a People's Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA).
Referring to the Supreme Court's judgement in National Investigation Agency vs. Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, Judge noted-
"Importantly, it is clearly observed that the question of discarding a document at the stage of bail on the ground of that document being inadmissible in evidence is not permissible. The issue of admissibility of the document or evidence would be a matter for trial. The Court must look at the contents of the document and take such document into account as it is. The degree of satisfaction is lighter when the Court has to opine that the accusation is 'prima facie true'."
Court referred to prosecution witness Kumarsai's statement and noted – "It is necessary to note that the said statement of Kumarsai contains minute details of the role of accused persons in the organization which is not possible for Investigating Officer to fabricate or concoct. It is necessary to note that said witness was holding post of Secretary of Gondiya Rajnandgaon and Balaghat Division of the organization. At this stage of the litigation, the statement has to be taken into account to understand the strategy of the organization and role played by the applicant and the other accused persons."
Apart from this, Court perused the letter allegedly recovered from Navlakha's house addressed to him by Comrade Sudarshan. The letter states-
"We must intensify campaigns both in struggle areas and in the open work to resist each and every tactic used by the remorseless paramilitary forces with an aim to crush the revolutionary movement.
Please coordinate with Comrade Raghunath and Comrade Surendra to finalize the agenda and financial arrangements for organizing this FF mission. Dear Comrade, these are very critical times, the great People's war is increasingly facing brutal repression from all fronts therefore, we must do everything in our power to stand united and defeat the fascist forces both politically and otherwise."
On perusal of the abovesaid letter, the status of the applicant in the organization and the role played by him can be noted. There is specific reference of raising of funds and to instigate and provoke villagers to participate in the activities of the organization, Court said.
Finally, Judge Navander observed that although charge sheet has been filed in the case, the present applicant is yet to be arrested. He refused to entertain the contention that prejudice will be caused to the applicant if details supplied by the prosecution in a sealed cover are not disclosed. Court said-
"Considering the scope of interrogation of the applicant and investigation in the case, it would be proper that the letters in the sealed cover are not made public. The applicant cannot claim prejudice for non-supply of copies of those letters because those can be supplied to him after interrogation, and certainly for trial. With a little departure from established practice of supplying of copy of incriminating material to the accused, it is to be noted that those letters prima facie support the claim of prosecution that the applicant is seriously involved in antinational activities."
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