Bhima Koregaon: Bombay HC grants interim protection from arrest to Gautam Navlakha until December 2

Bhima Koregaon: Bombay HC grants interim protection from arrest to Gautam Navlakha until December 2

Omkar Gokhale

The Bombay High Court on Friday granted interim protection from arrest until December 2 to Gautam Navlakha, accused in Bhima-Koregaon case and booked for alleged Maoist links.

The Court will now hear Navlakha’s anticipatory bail plea together with the pre-arrest bail application of co-accused Anand Teltumbde. Senior Counsel Mihir Desai will appear for Anand Teltumbde.

A Single Bench of Justice Prakash D Naik passed an interim order on Friday. This comes a day after the Court refused to give Navlakha immediate interim protection from arrest on Thursday.

Appearing for Navlakha, Advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhry informed the Court today that hearing on the anticipatory bail application of co-accused Anand Teltumbde has been pending before the High Court since February, this year. In light of this, Chaudhry argued,

“Navlakha’s application being identical to that of Teltumbde under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, both the pleas should be heard together. Also, the issue of maintainability of the pleas needs to be resolved. Prosecution’s desperation to get hands on my client did not affect the Supreme Court. The High Court should take a cue from the Apex Court order of October 15 and grant Navlakha protection from arrest.”

On the other hand, Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Aruna Pai opposed Navlakha’s pre-arrest bail plea and argued that it can be heard separately. 

 “There is a distinction between two applications since the material against both the accused is different. Moreover, when Teltumbde’s pre-arrest bail plea was filed, the interim protection from arrest was in force, which is not the case with Navlakha,” Pai claimed.

SPP Pai went on to argue,

“I strongly oppose the request for interim protection. Navlakha has been given protection from arrest for over a year now. He cannot be protected from arrest in view of judicial propriety, since the interim protection from arrest granted by the Supreme Court came to an end on November 12. Moreover, the Pune Court has observed that custodial interrogation is required.”

On Thursday, Pai had argued that applicant Navlakha needs to be present in the Court under Section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) during the next hearing. Section 438 of the CrPC empowers High Court to grant anticipatory bail to a person apprehending an arrest. In view of this, Justice Naik on Thursday said that the prosecution needs to make a separate application for the appearance of applicant and the Court will decide accordingly.

On Friday, Justice Naik refused to accept the argument made by Pune Police in view of previous interim protection granted to Navlakha by the Supreme Court and High Court. The Court held that Navlakha is required to be protected from arrest till the hearing on December 2.

Navlakha, on November 13 had moved the Bombay High Court for pre-arrest bail, just one day after the Pune Sessions Court rejected his plea for anticipatory bail. On November 12, the Court had also rejected Navlakha’s application seeking a three-day extension from arrest. At the time, the Court had said that there is prima facie enough material to show Navlakha is not only a member of a banned organisation (Communist Party of India- Maoist) but ‘an active leader’ as well. Refusing the plea for pre-arrest bail, the Pune Sessions Court had held that custodial interrogation of applicant is required.

Navlakha had moved the Pune Court on November 5, a day after the Bombay High Court directed him to approach the Special Court for this relief. Earlier, in a plea filed by Navlakha seeking quashing of the FIR against him in the case, the Supreme Court had granted him liberty to approach the appropriate forum seeking pre-arrest bail while refusing to decline the plea for quashing the FIR against him. That order of the Supreme court ultimately led to the filing of the present application.

Today, the High Court directed the Pune Police to file a reply on Navlakha’s plea and posted the matter for further hearing on December 2.

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