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Bhima Koregaon: CJI Ranjan Gogoi recuses from hearing plea by Gautam Navlakha seeking quashing of FIR

Bhima Koregaon: CJI Ranjan Gogoi recuses from hearing plea by Gautam Navlakha seeking quashing of FIR

Murali Krishnan

Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi today recused from hearing the plea filed by Gautam Navlakha seeking the quashing of the FIR registered against him in the Bhima Koregaon case.

When the matter came up for hearing today before a Bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SA Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer, CJI Gogoi directed that the matter be listed before a Bench which does not include himself.

Earlier this month, the Bombay High Court had dismissed Navlakh’s plea to quash the FIR registered against him by the Pune Police. The FIR accuses Navlakha of having links with banned Naxal groups.

The Bombay High Court had arrived at the prima facie conclusion that there exists sufficient material for the probe to continue against Navlakha. The material brought before the Court by Pune Police included several letters exchanged between CPI(Maoist) members, a critical report on Navlakha written by a CPI (Maoist) member allegedly elaborating the “deep-rooted involvement” of Navlakha in the party,  and a copy of the Strategy and Tactics of Indian Revolution, in addition to documents submitted by the State in a sealed envelope.

The High Court had, however, emphasised that the observations made in its order are only prima facie in nature and that they should not influence the trial court’s decision in the matter. Along with this, the interim protection from arrest afforded to Navlakha was extended for a period of three weeks giving time to Navlakha to come before the Supreme Court in appeal.

The State of Maharashtra had filed a caveat in the Supreme Court on September 16 in this case.

Gautam Navlakha and four other activists were implicated after an Elgar Parishad meeting held on December 31, 2017, allegedly provoked violence at the Koregaon-Bhima village in Pune the next day.

Navlakha was booked under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and Sections 121, 121(a) and 124 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), amounting to waging a war against the State, conspiring to commit certain offences against the State, and sedition.

Gautam Navlakha had earlier moved the Delhi High Court soon after he was arrested on August 28 last year. In his Habeas Corpus petition, Navlakha had challenged the manner of his arrest and the subsequent transit remand order passed by the CMM.

The matter had even reached the Supreme Court in September last year. The Court had stayed the arrest of Navlakha and four other activists and later extended the stay.

On October 1, last year, the Delhi High Court set aside the transit remand order passed by the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM), Delhi. The State of Maharashtra then filed an appeal against this order in the Supreme Court. While keeping the matter pending, the Supreme Court had asked the Bombay High Court to expeditiously deal with Navlakha’s petition seeking to quash the FIR filed against him.

[Read Order]