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Breaking: [Bhima Koregaon] SC Stays Gautam Navlakha's Bail Proceedings Before Delhi High Court

Sanya Talwar & Nilashish Chaudhary
2 Jun 2020 12:28 PM GMT
Breaking: [Bhima Koregaon] SC Stays Gautam Navlakha
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the proceedings in the Gautam Navlakha's bail proceedings before Delhi High Court.

The Court was hearing an appeal filed by the National Investigating Agency (NIA) against a May 27 order of the Delhi High Court whereby it directed the agency to furnish a complete record of the proceedings before the NIA Special Judges based on which he was transferred to Mumbai.

A bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Abdul Nazeer and Indira Banerjee also issued notice to Navlakha, seeking his reply and posted the matter for further hearing on June 15.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the Appellant and stated that the order of the Delhi High Court was patently illegal and sans jurisdiction.

The NIA averred that,

"Ld. Single Judge, vide the said impugned interim order, erroneously continues to entertain the interim bail application of an accused who is charged by an authority outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Hon'ble High Court and who is currently in judicial custody vide a valid jurisdictional remand order passed by the Ld. Special Judge, NIA, Mumbai [outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi]"

Further, the NIA stated merely by way of chance, Navlakha, chose to surrender in Delhi on 14.04.2020 [during the first Lockdown] and could not be taken to Mumbai.

"The agency, from 14.04.2020, had already taken a decision to shift the Respondent to the relevant jurisdiction, at the first opportunity, as and when the Lockdown restrictions, were to be relaxed. In light of the above, apart the fact that the Impugned Order was without jurisdiction in law, the said order has no basis in fact or on merits" - Excerpt of Brief Note on SLP by NIA 

The Single Bench of Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani of the Delhi High Court had also asked for the complete records of the application moved before the Delhi Bench of NIA Court for seeking an extension of Navlakha's judicial remand.

Additionally, as per court's order, the application filed by the concerned Jail Superintendent of Tihar Jail, seeking permission to transfer the Navlakha to Mumbai had also been requisitioned on the next date of hearing, i.e. June 3, 2020.

The HigH Court had asked for the NIA Investigating Officer to join the hearing through video conferencing as well. When Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had resisted this demand, the court rejected it and went ahead in directing for the appearance of the IO within an hour by noting that:

'While ordinarily this court would not see too much cause for hurry in this case, in view of the inexplicable, frantic hurry shown by the NIA in moving the applicant from Delhi to Mumbai while this matter was pending and the NIA had itself sought time to file status report, this court does get a sense that all proceedings in this jurisdiction would be rendered utterly infructuous if an element of urgency is not brought to bear on the present proceedings. Prima-facie it appears that while on the last date, this court had granted adequate time to the NIA to file its status report in response to the interim bail plea ; and while the NIA has filed an affidavit opposing that plea, the NIA has acted in unseemly haste to instead remove the applicant out of the very jurisdiction of this court ; and, if the applicant is right, without even informing the Special Judge (NIA), Mumbai or the Special Judge (NIA), Delhi of the pendency of the present proceedings.'

Earlier, on March 16, the top Court had denied anticipatory bail to activists Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde in the case registered under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act alleging Maoist links in connection with Bhima Koregaon violence.

Subsequently, Navlakha surrendered before the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on April 14 here after the Supreme Court had refused to extend his plea in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The case pertains to the violent incidents which occurred on January 1, 2018 at Bhima Koregaon, near Pune during the Dalit organisations' commemoration of 200th anniversary of Victory of Koregaon Battle. The Pune police alleged that violence was incited by the Elgaar Parishad meeting held at Pune the previous day.

It was alleged that the meeting was organised by persons having nexus with banned Maoist organisations.

The first wave of arrests were made by the police in June 2018. The arrested persons were anti-caste activist Sudhir Dhawale, human rights lawyer Surendra Gadling, Forest Rights Act activist Mahesh Raut, retired English professor Shoma Sen and human rights activist Rona Wilson, an activist with the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners.

Later, activist-lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, Telugu poet Varavara Rao, activists Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves were arrested.

In November 2018, the police filed the first chargesheet in the case against the six persons arrested in June 2018.

In February 2019, supplementary chargesheet against Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira and Gonsalves was filed.

Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde are not named in the chargesheet.

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