NEW DELHI: After as many as five Judges distanced themselves from hearing the plea filed by civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha, who has challenged the Bombay High Court order refusing to quash an FIR lodged against him in the Koregaon Bhima violence case, a new bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta will hear the case on Friday.
Gautam Navlakha’s interim bail also ends on Friday. Earlier during the day, newly-appointed Justice S Ravindra Bhat became the fifth Supreme Court judge to recuse himself from hearing the plea by Navlakha, who has challenged the Bombay HC order. Justice Bhat, who was on the bench with Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Vineet Saran, did not cite a reason for his recusal.
On September 30, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had recused himself from hearing Navlakha’s plea. However, the lawyers associated with the case claimed that he might have done this because of his engagement in Ayodhya land dispute case.Again, on October 1, three judges of a bench Justices N V Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and Justice B R Gavai had also recused themselves from hearing the matter.
Navlakha and four other activists Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Sudha Bharadwaj were booked by the Pune police in January 2018 after an Elgar Parishad meeting on December 31, 2017 allegedly triggered violence in the Koregaon-Bhima village the next day.
The recusal by five judges from hearing this case raises questions as to why there is no mechanism in place where Judges inform to registry officials in advance about not hearing a particular matter. The Bombay High Court had on September 13 refused to quash the FIR against Navlakha who has been accused of having Maoist links. The HC had then said there was sufficient material for the probe to continue against the activist.
Judges who recused
On September 30, CJI Ranjan Gogoi had recused himself from hearing the plea. Later on Oct 1, three judges — justices N V Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai —also recused themselves