The Bombay High Court has today dismissed the appeal filed by activist Gautam Navlakha, who had challenged the rejection of his statutory bail by the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court, earlier on July 12, in the Bhima Koregaon violence case. He is in prison since his surrender on 14 April 2020.
A division bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik heard the appeal filed through senior advocate Kapil Sibal who sought default bail for Navlakha, on the grounds that NIA had failed to file their charge sheet within the stipulated period of 90 days.
The order had restricted his movement, making his plea for release, under section 167(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) valid, said Sibal.
The NIA, however, contended that Navlakha was under house arrest for 34 days, between 29 August to 1 October 2018, which was declared illegal by the Delhi High Court. Therefore, it could not be included in his custody period.
On the other hand, senior advocate SV Raju appearing for the Central agency contended that the house arrest period could not be counted as the date of producing Navlakha before the magistrate.
“Navlakha was a free man as he was neither in custody nor on bail,” he said.
Subsequently, the court asserted that “We see no reason to interfere with the order of the trial court,” and went on dismissing the bail appeal.
As per the charge sheet, Navlakha has played an active role and was involved in secret communications with Communist Party of India (Maoist) cadres.
The Maharashtra police had arrested Navlakha on 28 August 2018 in connection with an FIR lodged following the ‘Elgar Parishad’ held on 31 December 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.