Law

Bombay HC Extends Protection From Arrest for Gautam Navlakha to June 18

A division bench was hearing a petition filed by Navlakha seeking to quash the case lodged against him by Pune police in connection the the violence at Bhima Koregaon in December 2017.

Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Wednesday observed that it prima facie found nothing against civil liberties activist Gautam Navlakha, who is accused of having Maoist links.

The court also extended the protection from arrest granted to Navlakha till the next date of hearing.

A division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre was hearing a petition filed by Navlakha seeking to quash the case lodged against him by Pune police after the Elgar Parishad conclave on December 31, 2017 that allegedly triggered violence at Bhima Koregaon village in Pune the next day.

The police accused Navlakha and four other activists of having Maoist links. The activists were booked under provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The bench on Wednesday heard brief arguments of Navlakha’s counsel Yug Chaudhary and additional public prosecutor Aruna Kamat Pai, and also perused documents submitted by the prosecution against the accused persons.

Also read: Maharashtra Dropped Six Cases Against Sambhaji Bhide Before Bhima Koregaon – RTI

These documents include letters written to Navlakha allegedly by senior Maoist leaders.

“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,” Justice More said.

Pai argued that apart from these documents, several other documents were recovered from Navlakha’s laptop that incriminate him.

The prosecutor submitted the same to the court in a sealed envelope and said these documents cannot be shared with the petitioner (Navlakha) as the investigation against him was still on.

After perusing the documents submitted in the sealed envelope, the high court, however, said there was “nothing secretive” about these documents.

“There is nothing secretive in these documents. We are of the prima facie opinion that these documents can be given to him (Navlakha),” Justice More said.

Read: What Delhi HC Had to Say While Freeing Gautam Navlakha from House Arrest

Pai said she would take instructions from the investigating officer on whether the documents could be given to Navlakha.

The high court then posted the petition for further hearing on June 18.

Chaudhary argued that Navlakha was an author and peace activist and was a specialist on conflict zones.

“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?” Chaudhary said.

“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,” he argued.

Besides Navlakha, some other prominent activists, including Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Sudha Bharadwaj, are also accused in the case.