A special court in Mumbai has rejected the bail application of activist and journalist Gautam Navlakha who is an accused in the Bhima-Koregaon case. He has been in custody since April 2020. A detailed order is awaited.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has alleged that Navlakha is an active member of the banned terrorist organisation Communist Party of India (Maoist) and was assigned to unite intellectuals and recruit cadre for guerilla activities of the organisation. It had also alleged that he delivered many lectures on the Kashmiri separatist movement and Maoist movement, and supported them.
This is the first time he made a bail plea on the merits of the case. In the plea through his advocate Harshwardhan Akolkar, the 69-year-old had said that charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) do not attract as advocacy of violence is a prerequisite to attract them. The NIA case has failed to connect Navlakha to the larger conspiracy, the plea said.
Navlakha's application also stated that he is a peace activist and his views are exactly opposite to that of Maoists whose core beliefs are intrinsically based of violence. It added that he has criticised Maoists in his published articles before his arrest which shows that he is implacably opposed to violence.
Navlakha has disclosed all his passwords to the NIA and nothing incriminating was found in the documents from him, he had stated. The activist said he is not a flight risk and has been protected from arrest for 595 days – including 34 days that he had been under house arrest – which shows that he will not flee justice and will be available for trial, unlike the contention of the prosecution while opposing the grant of bail to him.
Navlakha's plea said with there being 15 accused persons in the case and the NIA submitting a 30,000 page chargesheet citing 150 witnesses, the trial is going to take a long time to conclude. He said subjecting him to prison at his advanced age would be cruel and unjust.