Will get activist Navlakha medically examined, says Maharashtra government; HC seeks NIA's reply on his plea for house arrest

In his plea, Navlakha, 69, also sought that he be placed under house arrest as part of his judicial custody, owing to his advanced age and a host medical ailments that he suffers from.
Civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha  (Photo | PTI)
Civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha (Photo | PTI)

MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court on Thursday that it will take jailed activist Gautam Navlakha, an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case case, for a medical check-up to the Tata Memorial Hospital in neighbouring Navi Mumbai on Friday.

The state's counsel, public prosecutor Sangeeta Shinde, made the statement before a bench of Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar after Navlakha moved the HC earlier in the day, seeking directions to authorities of the Navi Mumbai-based Taloja prison, where he is currently lodged, to get him examined for a lump developed in his chest in March this year while in prison.

In his plea, Navlakha, 69, also sought that he be placed under house arrest as part of his judicial custody, owing to his advanced age and a host medical ailments that he suffers from.

Navlakha cited the Supreme Court's order issued in May this year, whereby the apex court had dismissed his default bail plea, but found merit in treating house arrest as an alternative form of detention, especially for such undertrials who are aged or suffering from serious medical ailments.

In his plea, Navlakha also said that with 15 people accused in the case, the charge sheet spanning over 30,000 pages and over 150 witnesses to be examined, to continue to subject him to incarceration till the completion of the trial would be extremely "unjust, harsh, and cruel".

The activist said he had always cooperated with the probe into the case and that he was a fit candidate for house arrest.

Navlakha's counsels Yug Chaudhry and Payoshi Roy also told the HC that they had already written to the Taloja prison authorities seeking a medical check up for the lump in his chest, but were yet to hear anything from them.

They told the HC that Navlakha also suffered from hypertension that he developed while in prison, and several other ailments.

The activist in his plea claimed the Taloja prison was grossly inept at treating serious medical ailments suffered by inmates.

He also claimed the Taloja prison staff had been callous towards the health and other needs of inmates in the past.

The Taloja prison authorities had repeatedly acted in a "callous manner in the past, endangering the lives of the inmates, including the petitioner's co-accused in the case," Navlakha said in the plea.

"Because of the negligence and stubborn refusal of officials of the Taloja prison, the ailments and medical concerns of inmates go undiagnosed and untreated for long periods of time,", the plea said.

Navlakha's counsel Chaudhry urged the HC to allow the activist to be examined at the Mumbai-based Jaslok Hospital, a private medical facility, where his sister was an employee.

Chaudhry said all expenses of the examination at the private hospital will be borne by Navlakha and his family.

His request, however, was opposed by Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who appeared for the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is conducting a probe into the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case.

Singh said that accused persons must not insist on going to a hospital of their choice and suggested that Navlakha be taken by the prison authorities to a state-run hospital.

The state government then proposed to take Navlakha to the Tata Memorial Hospital at Kharghar in Navi Mumbai, which is closer to the Taloja prison.

While Chaudhry said the NIA was being "vindictive", the HC pointed out that Navlakha had not made a special pleading in the petition for getting examined at the Jaslok Hospital.

The bench gave Chaudhry the option of filing an additional application, seeking that Navlakha be taken to the Jaslok Hospital.

Chaudhry however, said he did not wish to waste any time and agreed to the state's proposition of taking Navlakha to the Tata Memorial Hospital.

"When your client tells you there is a lump which could possibly be cancer, you don't want such delays," Chaudhry told the high court.

The bench then recorded public prosecutor Sangeeta Shinde's statement that Navlakha will be taken for a medical examination on Friday.

The HC also asked the NIA to file a reply to Navlakha's prayer for house arrest and posted the matter for further hearing on September 27.

Navlakha was arrested by Pune police from Delhi on August 28, 2018 in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case.

He was initially kept under house arrest, but subsequently sent in judicial custody.

As per Navlakha's plea, he has spent one year and three months in prison in connection with the case.

The case relates to the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Maharashtr's Pune district on December 31, 2017.

The Pune police had claimed that the event was backed by Maoists, and provocative speeches made there led to caste violence near the Bhima-Koregaon war memorial in the district the next day.

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