Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi’s recusal in rights activist Gautam Navlakha’s plea on Monday came as the latest development in the Bhima Koregaon case in which five activists, including Navlakha, have been accused of inciting violence and having “Maoist-links”.
Delhi-based Navlakha’s petition challenges the Bombay High Court order refusing to quash the FIR lodged against him, which charged him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), with inciting violence in the Bhima Koregaon area in Maharashtra’s Pune.
"List the matter before a bench in which I am not the party", Gogoi said. The matter was listed before a bench headed by Gogoi and comprising Justices SA Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer. The Maharashtra government had filed a caveat in the matter seeking to be heard before any orders are passed.
On 13 September, the high court had refused to quash the FIR lodged against him in the 2017 case and for having alleged Maoist links, noting that there was prima facie substance in the case. The high court had said, "Considering the magnitude of the case, we feel a thorough investigation is required".
The FIR was lodged against Navlakha and others by the Pune Police in January 2018 after the Elgar Parishad held on 31 December, 2017 that had allegedly triggered violence in the area the next day.
The police had also alleged that Navlakha and other accused in the case had Maoist links and were working towards “overthrowing the government”. The high court had, however, extended the protection from arrest to Navlakha for a period of three weeks to enable him to approach the Supreme Court in appeal against the high court order.
Navlakha and the other accused were booked under the provisions of the UAPA and the Indian Penal Code. Besides Navlakha, four others — Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Sudha Bharadwaj, are accused in the case.
On 28 August, Twitter erupted with reactions to the Bombay High Court's line of questioning in the hearing of a bail plea in Gonsalves' case, when a single-judge bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal asked why the activist had a copy of 'War and Peace' at home.
The books and CDs the high court reportedly referred to include copies of Marxist Archives, a CD titled Rajya Daman Virodhi released by Kabir Kala Manch, and Leo Tolstoy's literary classic War and Peace among others.
"The title of the CD Rajya Daman Virodhi itself suggests it has something against the State while War and Peace is about a war in another country. Why did you (Gonsalves) have these books and CDs at home? You will have to explain this to the court," the court was quoted as saying by PTI.
However, amid receiving flak for the statement, the court clarified the next day that it had not made the statement in reference to Tolstoy's book. Justice Kotwal said, "You have made your point about the books not being banned. Besides, yesterday, I was reading the whole list from the chargesheet. It was written in such poor handwriting. I know War and Peace. I was making a query on the entire list that police has mentioned (as evidence)."
Yug Chaudhary, counsel for co-accused Sudha Bharadwaj, then told the court that the 'War and Peace' that the court had referred to on Wednesday was a collection of essays edited by one Biswajit Roy, and was titled War and Peace in Junglemahal: People, State and Maoists.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Sep 30, 2019 14:48:40 IST