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Supreme Court To Hear Gautam Navlakha's Plea Against Bombay High Court's Order Denying Him Bail In Bhima Koregaon Case On March 3

Srishti Ojha
1 March 2021 8:18 AM GMT
Supreme Court To Hear Gautam Navlakhas Plea Against Bombay High Courts Order Denying Him Bail In Bhima Koregaon Case On March 3
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Activist and Journalist Gautam Navlakha who is an accused in the Elgar Parishad – Maoist links case has moved the Supreme Court challenging Bombay High Court's recent order rejecting his bail application. A three-judge Bench of Justices UU Lalit, Indira Banerjee and KM Joseph is scheduled to hear his plea on Wednesday, 3rd March 2021. Navlakha's plea before the top Court comes after...

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Activist and Journalist Gautam Navlakha who is an accused in the Elgar Parishad – Maoist links case has moved the Supreme Court challenging Bombay High Court's recent order rejecting his bail application. A three-judge Bench of Justices UU Lalit, Indira Banerjee and KM Joseph is scheduled to hear his plea on Wednesday, 3rd March 2021.

Navlakha's plea before the top Court comes after a division bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik refused to interfere in his criminal appeal filed against an order of the special court, which rejected his application for default bail in June, last year. He is in prison since his surrender on April, 14 2020.

Navlakha sought default bail on the grounds that the National Investigating Agency (NIA) had failed to file their chargesheet within the stipulated period of 90 days. The NIA, however, contended that Navlakha was under house arrest for 34 days, between August 29 to October 1, 2018, which was declared illegal by the Delhi High Court. Therefore, it could not be included in his custody period.

However the High Court, observed that, the time spent in "unlawful custody" cannot be included while computing the 90 days period prescribed for grant of default bail under section 167(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

The Court had further observed that 34 days Navlakha had spent under house arrest between August 28, 2018 - October 10, 2018, cannot be used to calculate his total detention period, especially since his arrest, as well as the magistrate's transit remand, was found to be illegal by the Delhi HC.

"It is not possible for us to fathom a situation where detention of the Appellant(Navlakha) though held to be illegal & unlawful rendering the authorisation by the Magistrate untenable should still be construed as an authorised detention for the purpose of Sub-Section (2) of Section 167 of the CrPC," the court had observed.

The court held that there was no doubt Navlakha was under house arrest, during which time he could interact only with his family and lawyers. However, the investigating agency did not have any access to him or an occasion to interrogate him, as the High Court had ordered the police to keep Navlakha at the same place from where he was picked up.

"As the transit remand order was stayed, it cannot be said that the appellant was under detention of police for investigation, "the bench observed.

The court held that section 167 (2) of the CrPC, assumes the detention is authorised by a magistrate, and 90 days upward from that day can be used to calculate the period of custody for default bail. "However, once the authorisation by the Magistrate is declared illegal consequently rendering the detention itself illegal, the said period (house arrest custody) cannot be construed to be an authorised custody within the meaning of Section 167(2) of CrPC.," the court said.

The Maharashtra police had arrested Navlakha on August 28, 2018 in connection with an FIR lodged following the 'Elgar Parishad' held on December 31, 2017 and the Bhima Koregaon violence, a day after. Through the nationwide crackdown on activists and academics, connected to the conference, the police claimed to bust a larger maoist conspiracy.

The case was later handed over to the NIA. Navlakha's arrest and subsequent house arrest in August, 2018, was declared illegal by the Delhi High Court. Navlakha then approached the Sessions Court, followed by the High Court and Supreme Court for anticipatory bail. The Supreme Court, on March 16, 2020, directed Navlakha to surrender within three weeks, after rejecting his bail application. His plea seeking an extension in view of the coronavirus pandemic was also rejected. Following this Navlakha surrendered on April 14.


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