The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday opposed the house arrest plea by activist Gautam Navlakha, an accused in the Elgar Parishad case, saying that it would result in difficulties, including the inability to prevent Navlakha from using social media while out of prison as the same "could prove to be dangerous."
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the NIA, told the Bombay High Court that if Navlakha’s plea was allowed to be shifted out of judicial custody and placed under house arrest till the conclusion of the trial, then the state and the union government authorities will have several difficulties in implementing such order.
“Police guards can be posted outside his (Navlakha's) house, but how will the court stop him from using social media, the internet in his house? This is very dangerous. He is accused in a matter concerning national security and he wants to stay in his house?” asked Singh.
Singh further contended that the grievances raised by Navlakha’s counsel Yug Chaudhry about him suffering from hypertension, the Taloja prison being overcrowded etc. were common. If one such plea was allowed, then the court would be flooded with similar requests.
Navlakha’s counsel said that the NIA’s apprehension was unfounded adding that as per the NHRC data, only 1,874 inmates above the age of 50 were lodged as undertrials in Maharashtra and that just about 20 per cent of such inmates were likely to be above the age of 70.
“Please don't let the fear of the dragon scare your lordships from implementing the green signal given by the Supreme Court on house arrest,” Chaudhry said.
The Maharashtra government too opposed Navlakha's plea and said that the prison authorities will provide requisite medical care to him.
Additional public prosecutor Sangeeta Shinde refuted allegations that Navlakha was denied basic medical care and other necessities. “He has been kept in a high-security cell and he is the only one in his cell,” Shinde said.
Responding to the court's previous query on a PG Wodehouse book being denied to Navlakha after prison authorities considered it a security threat, Shinde said that the book had been sent by the activist's family during a time when the Covid19 pandemic was raging and as a security measure, no parcels from outside were allowed in the prison.
HC, however, refused to accept the justification and pointed out that the prison authorities had merely mentioned "security threat" as a reason for denial of the book and not mentioned Covid as a reason at all. The HC has reserved the plea for order.