Activist Gautam Navlakha’s bail plea rejected by Mumbai court

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A special NIA court Monday rejected the bail plea of human rights activist Gautam Navlakha, an accused in the Elghar Parishad-Maoist links case, Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.

Navlakha, arrested on 28 August 2018, moved the court for bail more than six 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), as per the report.

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 31 December 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, reads the report by PTI.

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

As per the report by PTI, 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, as per the report.

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

However, Navlakha’s 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.

As per the report, 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 14 April 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. (PTI)

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