SC reserves verdict on Gautam Navalakha's bail plea in Bhima Koregaon case

On 3 March, the apex court had sought the NIA's response on Navalakha's plea seeking default bail in the case, saying chargesheet was not filed within the stipulated time period

Press Trust of India March 26, 2021 23:47:02 IST
SC reserves verdict on Gautam Navalakha's bail plea in Bhima Koregaon case

Representational image. Reuters

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday reserved its verdict on a plea of activist Gautam Navalakha seeking bail in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist link case of Bhima Koregaon lodged in Maharashtra.

A bench of Justices UU Lalit and KM Joseph after hearing detailed arguments from senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Navalakha and Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, appearing for NIA reserved the verdict.

The top court had on 3 March, sought response from NIA on the plea of Navalakha seeking default bail in the case, saying charge sheet was not filed within the stipulated time period.

According to police, some activists allegedly made inflammatory speeches and provocative statements at the Elgar Parishad meet in Pune on 31 December, 2017, which triggered violence at Koregaon Bhima in the district the next day.

The police have also alleged that the event was backed by some Maoist groups.

The high court had said that "it sees no reason to interfere with a special court's order which earlier rejected his bail plea".

Navlakha had approached the high court last year, challenging the special NIA court's order of 12 July, 2020 that rejected his plea for statutory bail.

On 16 December last year, the High Court bench reserved its verdict on the plea filed by Navlakha, seeking statutory or default bail on the ground that he had been in custody for over 90 days, but the prosecution failed to file a charge sheet in the case within this period.

The NIA had argued that his plea was not maintainable, and sought an extension of time to file the charge sheet.

The special court had then accepted NIA's plea seeking extension of 90 to 180 days to file the charge sheet against Navlakha and his co-accused, activist Dr Anand Teltumbde.

Navlakha's counsel had told the high court that the NIA was granted the extension to file its charge sheet.

Sibal had said Navlakha had already spent 93 days in custody, including 34 days of house arrest, and that the High Court must count house arrest as a period of custody.

While he was under house arrest, Navlakha's personal liberties remained curtailed, Sibal had said. However, Raju, who appeared for the NIA, had argued that Navlakha's house arrest could not be included in the time spent in the custody of police or NIA, or under judicial custody.

Raju had argued that the Pune police arrested Navlakha in August 2018, but had not taken him into custody.

He had said the accused remained under house arrest, and the Delhi High Court quashed his arrest and remand order in October 2018.

The FIR against him was re-registered in January 2020, and Navlakha surrendered before the NIA on 14 April.

He spent 11 days in the NIA's custody till 25 April, and since then he in judicial custody in the Taloja jail in neighbouring Navi Mumbai.

Raju had argued that if the court looked from the other angle, it would see that if he (Navlakha) was arrested on 28 August, 2018, he should have been enlarged on bail.

"He was a free man till April 2020. He was neither on bail nor in custody. There cannot be a gap in the custody and detention period," Raju had said.

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