Special NIA Court Rejects Gautam Navlakha's Bail Plea

The 70-year-old activist has additionally appealed to the Supreme Court against a Bombay HC order dismissing his plea to allow him to be in house arrest instead of at Taloja prison.

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New Delhi: A special NIA court in Mumbai on Monday, September 5, rejected the bail plea of activist Gautam Navlakha, in jail since 2018 over what the agency believes is his connection with the Elgar Parishad case.

Special judge Rajesh J. Katariya on Monday rejected Navlakha’s bail plea. Details of the order are yet to be released.

The 70-year-old activist has appealed to the top court against the April 26 order of the Bombay high court dismissing his plea to allow him to be in house arrest instead of at Taloja prison.

Navlakha had told the high court that Taloja prison was overcrowded and the conditions and environment of the jail were not compatible with his health.

Recently, Supreme Court judge Justice S. Ravindra Bhat recused from hearing the case.

Last year, Navlakha’s partner Sahba Husain said that his condition had worsened in jail since he was shifted to a ‘high-security’ barrack on October 12, 2021. From there, he was not allowed to make regular phones calls to either Husain or his lawyers, she had alleged.

Earlier this year, the Bombay high court had hauled up Taloja prison officials over their decision to not allow Navlakha to access a book by one of the world’s most well-known English humour novelists, P.G. Wodehouse, by calling it a security risk.

The Elgar Parishad case, for which Navlakha is held, relates to speeches delivered at the Elgar Parishad conclave held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 201. Pune Police claimed these triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the city’s outskirts.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) later took over the probe into the case, in which more than a dozen activists and academicians were named as accused and taken into custody. The case has not yet gone to trial.

The investigation into the case has been likened to a witch-hunt, with several global rights bodies, individuals and commentators pointing out that the jailing of 16 prominent individuals amounts to brutally crushing dissent.

Besides 84-year-old poet Varavara Rao, the only accused on bail in the case is activist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj. Another accused, Father Stan Swamy, an activist and Jesuit priest, passed away in jail last year. His acquaintances have alleged severe medical neglect.

(With PTI inputs)