Bhima Koregaon Case: Bombay HC Rejects Gautam Navlakha's Default Bail Plea

"We see no reason to interfere with the order of the trial court," the division bench said in response to an appeal filed by the activist.

New Delhi: The Bombay high court on Monday dismissed the default bail petition of activist Gautam Navlakha in the Bhima Koregaon case.

A division bench of Justices S.S. Shinde and M.S. Karnik passed the order in response to an appeal filed by the activist through Kapil Sibal, according to a report in LiveLaw. “We see no reason to interfere with the order of the trial court,” the bench said.

Navlakha approached the high court last year, challenging the special NIA court’s order of July 12, 2020, that rejected his plea for statutory bail. On December 16 last year, the bench reserved its verdict on the plea seeking default bail filed by Navlakha.

The NIA had argued that his plea was not maintainable, and sought an extension to file the charge sheet. The special court had then accepted NIA’s plea seeking extension of 90 to 180 days to file the charge sheet against Navlakha and his co-accused, activist Anand Teltumbde.

Navlakha’s counsel, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, had told the high court that the NIA was granted the extension to file its charge sheet. Since the civil liberties activist was placed under house arrest, following a court order, it could be termed as judicial custody, Navlakha’s counsel contended. The order had restricted his movement and as a result, Navlakha was entitled to default bail, Sibal argued.

However, Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, appearing for the NIA, had argued that Navlakha’s house arrest could not be included in the time spent in the custody of police or NIA, or under judicial custody. “Mr. Navlakha was a free man as he was neither in custody nor on bail,” Raju said and argued that the Pune police arrested Navlakha in August 2018, but had not taken him into custody. He said the accused remained under house arrest, and the Delhi high court quashed his arrest and remand order in October 2018.

The FIR against him was re-registered in January 2020, and Navlakha surrendered before the NIA on April 14. He spent 11 days in the NIA’s custody till April 25, and since then, he has been in judicial custody in the Taloja jail in neighbouring Navi Mumbai.

Raju had argued that if the court “looked from the other angle, it would see that if he (Navlakha) was arrested on August 28, 2018, he should have been enlarged on bail.”

The Maharashtra police had arrested Navlakha on August 28, 2018 and the case was later handed over to the NIA.

Navlakha’s arrest was later declared illegal by the Delhi high court. After Navlakha approached the Supreme Court for anticipatory bail, the anticipatory bail, on March 16, 2020, directed Navlakha to surrender within three weeks, after rejecting his bail application. Navlakha surrendered on April 14.

Last year in December the same bench had said that there was a need to sensitise the prison staff to the needs of inmates after authorities at Mumbai’s Taloja Jail refused to accept a parcel containing activist Gautam Navlakha’s spectacles.

(With inputs from PTI)