Elgar case: Special NIA court refuses bail to activist Gautam Navlakha

Navlakha, arrested on August 28, 2018, moved the court for bail more than 6 months ago and in his plea has also cited health issues while seeking relief.

PTIUpdated: Monday, September 05, 2022, 06:17 PM IST
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Gautam Navlakha | PTI

A special NIA court here on Monday rejected the bail plea of human rights activist Gautam Navlakha, an accused in the Elghar Parishad-Maoist links case.

Navlakha, arrested on August 28, 2018, moved the court for bail more than 6 months ago and in his plea has also cited health issues while seeking relief. He was initially kept under house arrest, but was later sent to judicial custody and lodged at the Taloja prison in neighbouring Navi Mumbai.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the case, had earlier vehemently opposed the human rights activist's plea for bail and described him as a member of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Special NIA court Judge Rajesh J Katariya, who previously heard prosecution and defence arguments over the matter, on Monday rejected Navlakha's bail plea.

Details of the order were not yet available.

The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the 'Elgar Parishad' conclave, held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city, located around 200km from Mumbai.

The Pune police, which probed the case initially, had claimed the conclave was backed by Maoists. The NIA later took over the probe into the case, in which more than a dozen activists and academicians were named as accused.

Navlakha and several other activists were charged under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The human rights activist had moved the court for bail in February through his advocate Yug Chaudhry on the merits of the case.

As per the NIA, Navlakha is a member of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) and was in correspondence with its members. He was also in possession of documents belonging to the proscribed group, the anti-terror agency has claimed.

He inculcated Maoist sympathies among students and others, the NIA has further said.

However, Navlakha's plea plea said his activities, at the most, border only on communication, which is wholly "insufficient" to attract any charges under the UAPA, an anti-terror law.

Further, Navlakha's plea said the NIA charge-sheet fails to connect him with a larger conspiracy.

The plea also stated the veteran activist has criticized the Maoists and is implacably opposed to Naxal violence as his published writings (which pre-date his arrest) show.

There was no material in the entire charge-sheet which shows the applicant has in any manner intended or supported a claim of cessation or caused any disaffection towards or against India or committed any act which disrupts the sovereignty or territorial integrity of India, the plea said.

Further, the plea said the prosecution, through its entire investigation, nowhere speaks of any terrorist act being committed. It added there was not a single allegation against Navlakha of being involved in planning, preparation, procurement, funding or commission of any terrorist act.

As per the plea, there was no material in the charge-sheet to show Navlakha has anywhere, by words either spoken or written or by any visible representation, attempted to bring hatred, disaffection against the Government of India.

The activist's bail plea claimed he suffers from high blood pressure and other ailments, including a lump in the chest, severe pain in the neck and lower back, and has a history of intestinal polyps.

Navlakha has been in jail since April 14, 2020, and there was no need to keep him in custody as the probe into the case has been completed, his bail plea contended.

It also said the trial, once it starts, is going to take a long time to complete as there are 15 accused persons, and the charge-sheet is a 30,000-page document with over 150 witnesses.

"To continue to subject the applicant to prison custody at his advanced age until the trial is completed would be extremely unjust, harsh and cruel and antithetical to the spirit of justice," the bail plea added.

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