Maharashtra govt moves Supreme Court against Delhi HC order ending activist Gautam Navlakha's house arrest

Maharashtra has challenged the Delhi High Court that freed from house arrest Gautam Navlakha, one of the five activists the Pune Police arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case.

FP Staff October 03, 2018 11:57:36 IST
Maharashtra govt moves Supreme Court against Delhi HC order ending activist Gautam Navlakha's house arrest

The Maharashtra government on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court, challenging the Delhi High Court's order ending the house arrest of Gautam Navlakha, one of the five rights activists arrested on 28 August in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. Nishant Katneshwar, counsel for the Maharashtra government, said the state had filed the petition in the apex court registry.

On Monday, the Delhi High Court had freed Navlakha from house arrest, five weeks after he, along with four other rights activists, were arrested in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence near Pune. The bench had also quashed the trial court's transit remand order, which the 65-year-old journalist had challenged before the matter was taken to the Supreme Court.

The high court had held that it was "untenable" that his detention had exceeded 24 hours. The Supreme Court had extended Navlakha's house arrest for four weeks till 28 September days before the high court decision. The high court had held that this extension was given for Navlakha to access appropriate legal recourse, which he availed.

In its petition, the Maharashtra government said that the high court had misread Section 167 (1) and (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) while allowing Navlakha to be freed from house arrest. Section 167 (1) states that in case an accused has to be produced before a jurisdictional magistrate, the police is obligated to produce the case diary.

Maharashtra govt moves Supreme Court against Delhi HC order ending activist Gautam Navlakhas house arrest

File photo of rights activist Gautam Navlakha. Wikimedia Commons

The petition was filed by Shivaji Panditrao Pawar, assistant commissioner of the Pune Police. The plea said that in case the police applies for transit remand before a magistrate that has no jurisdiction in the case, then it is not necessary for the police to produce the case diary.

"In the case in hand, the police arrested five people from different places in the country. It was, therefore, not expected and not possible to produce the case diary before the concerned Courts," the petition said, adding that the high court has "erred" in stating that chief metropolitan magistrate had not applied its mind while passing the order on the transit remand. "It is not possible/pragmatic to mention minute details while passing the order of remand."

The petition added that the high court had erred in doubting the procedure of arrest, and that the police had followed procedure while arresting the activists and seeking transit remand.

On Tuesday, the Pune Police had said the Maharashtra government's lawyers were studying the Delhi High Court order and would decide on a course of action after receiving legal opinion in the matter. "Our government pleaders are studying the order of the high court and our investigating officer is also travelling to the national capital. So after obtaining their legal opinion, the further course of action will be decided," said Shivaji Bodkhe, Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order).

After his release, Navlakha had said he did not hold any grudge for being confined to his home, adding that he cannot forget about his co-accused and others who remain incarcerated for their ideological convictions on account of the "false charges" filed against them.

"The period of my house arrest, despite the restrictions imposed, was put to good use, so I hold no grudge. However, I cannot forget my co-accused and the tens of thousands of other political prisoners in India who remain incarcerated for their ideological convictions, or on account of false charges filed against them, and/or wrongful conviction under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act," he said.

Besides Navlakha, the Pune Police had arrested four other activists after a pan-India crackdown on 28 August. These included Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira and Sudha Bharadwaj. They were arrested in connection with an FIR lodged after the Elgaar Parishad conclave held near Pune on 31 December, which had allegedly triggered violence in Bhima Koregaon village on 1 January.

The activists were put under house arrest following a Supreme Court order on a petition by historian Romila Thapar, economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devaki Jain, sociology professor Satish Deshpande and human rights lawyer Maja Daruwala, who had appealed against the police action and sought their release.

With inputs from PTI

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