19, Oct 2018 | CJP Team
Democratic rights activist and scholar Gautam Navlakha arrested allegedly in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case has moved the Bombay High Court and sought the quashing of the case filed against him by the Pune police. The petition was heard on Friday, October 19; the case was adjourned until October 26, and the court directed that no arrest be made until then. In the petition filed earlier this month, Navlakha urged the Bombay HC to quash the FIR on the grounds that there was no evidence against him and that he was being falsely implicated.
Advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhary appeared for Navlakha, who, through the petition, drew the attention of the court to take judicial note of the facts available that he said falsify the police’s claim that he was associated with the Elgaar Parishad, which was the substance of the said FIR.
He added, “There is good enough reason to infer that the violence in Bhima Koregaon was caused by Milind Ekbote, Sambhaji Bhide and their followers.” He highlighted the fact that the earliest FIR in the matter was by Anita Savale, and that the HC has seized a Criminal Writ petition seeking directions to investigate the matter further against Milind Ekbote and others. The petition has submitted that the Pune Deputy Mayor’s report, released following a fact-finding mission into the violence at Bhima Koregaon, also substantiates this.
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The petition, in its grounds seeking action, notes that the State itself has admitted that Navlakha “had nothing to do with either the Elgar Parishad or the organization of the event on 31/12/2018, either as a member of the Parishad or as a participant in the event. It is also admitted that he was neither present nor involved in the violence that took place in Bhima Koregaon on 1/1/2018.”
The petition has alleged that the Pune police, in a “sharp deviation from the ground reality and even from original FIR,” in which Navlakha is sought to be arrested, has introduced “an entirely new case” against him, and that the police has “orally accused him of being part of a Maoist conspiracy to destabilize the society and assassinate the Prime Minister. The petition questioned the basis of these claims, which appeared to be “undated, unsigned and near anonymous letters” that had been recovered from “third parties.”
The petition also draws attention to Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta’s concession that there was absolutely no evidence of a conspiracy to supposedly assassinate the Prime Minister in the Supreme Court of India during the hearing of a Writ Petition filed by prominent Indian citizens, including historian Romila Thapar, economists Devki Jain, Prabhat Patnaik and others, against the unlawful raid and arrest of prominent human rights activists across India.
The petition highlighted how the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) was used to “target the Petitioner [Navlakha] and others so that they has [sic] no recourse to anticipatory bail and so that the Respondent [State of Maharashtra] can seek extended remand and time for investigation to produce further unsubstantiated allegations.” The petition has argued that there are no grounds for the addition of draconian UAPA sections. It also maintains that when Navlakha was arrested, ” no material or context existed for suggesting” that he was “involved in any criminal activity much less one under the UAPA.” It notes that “references in the computer of a third party are being used against him,” with the context for them being “deliberately obfuscated.” The petition says the authenticity of these records is unclear, and submits that “mere reference by name, is insufficient for adding someone to the FIR.”
The petition has also alleged that criminal law was being used to “target legitimate political activity,” stating, “To speak for the human rights of anyone, a murderer, a rapist, a terrorist is not to become a murderer or rapist or terrorist.” It adds, “Yet, if such voices are silenced by making the interlocutors one with the offender whose cause is espoused, it is not criminal justice that is saved, but the constitution that is lessened.”
The petition is seeking that the Bombay High Court “Direct the Respondent to place on record the material upon which the Petitioner herein has been named as an accused in the present case and the basis on which he was arrested,” and “Quash the FIR and pursuant criminal investigation to the extent that the same includes the Petitioner.” As an interim measure, the petition has asked the court to direct that “Pending disposal of the present writ petition…there shall be no arrest of the Petitioner.”
Previously, the Delhi HC had set aside Gautam Navlakha’s transit remand immediately after the Supreme Court extended the house arrest of five activists arrested for their alleged involvement in instigating the Bhima Koregaon violence. The apex court had granted them four weeks to seek relief from lower courts. Navlakha was released from house arrest shortly after the HC order. However, in a diabolical bid to curtail his freedom, Maharashtra state had filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) against the HC order.
Navlakha’s petition may be read here: