2018 Bhima Koregaon case: SC grants bail to human rights activist Gautam Navlakha

Navlakha was under house arrest at a public library in Mumbai since November 2022 due to his ill health.
Civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha  (Photo | PTI)
Civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha (Photo | PTI)

In a breather for human rights activist and veteran journalist Gautam Navlakha, the Supreme Court on Tuesday lifted the stay on the Bombay High Court order granting bail to him in connection with his alleged role in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence case.

The apex court's order means that Navlakha was directed to be released on bail in the case. Navlakha was under house arrest at a public library in Mumbai since November 2022 due to his ill health.

A two-judge bench of the top court, led by Justice MM Sundresh and also comprising Justice SVN Bhatti, lifted the stay on the Bombay High Court order saying its order is subject to the payment of Rs 20 lakh for his house arrest.

Granting Navlakha bail, the court said that the appellant (Navlakha) has been in incarceration for more than four years and charges are yet to be framed. The trial would take years for its completion, it added.

While delving into the submissions of the parties, the court said that its interim order, granting him house arrest, need not be extended. "Without going at the length into contentions, we are not inclined to extend the stay,” said the bench in its order.

The top court agreed with Navlakha's plea seeking to be released on bail, saying that prima facie "we are of the view that there is no need to extend the interim order of stay. He is allowed to be released on bail."

The apex court passed the detailed order after hearing an appeal filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) against the Bombay High Court's December 2023 order granting bail to Navlakha.

Navlakha was arrested in 2020 by the NIA for his alleged role in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon case.

The Bombay High Court in its order on December last year had granted bail to Navlakha but stayed its order for three weeks after the NIA sought time to file an appeal in the apex court. The stay was subsequently also extended. Meanwhile, the NIA also moved the top court by filing an appeal against the Bombay HC order.

Navlakha had moved the top court requesting that he be placed under house arrest instead of judicial custody in Taloja jail, Maharashtra.

The NIA arrested Navlakha under very stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for an alleged conspiracy to topple the government. He was arrested by the probe agency in April 2020.

The NIA claimed that the case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave in Pune on December 31, 2017, which police said triggered violence the next day near the Bhima Koregaon war memorial on the outskirts of the city.

Sixteen activists have been arrested in the case and five of them are currently out on bail after courts imposed various terms and conditions on them.

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