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The Supreme Court today extended the interim protection from arrest granted to activist Gautam Navlakha in the Bhima Koregaon case by four weeks.
Navlakha, who had approached the Court seeking quashing of the FIR implicating him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, has been granted liberty to approach the concerned Court to seek pre-arrest or regular bail in the matter.
The Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta disposed of the case, while observing that it might be improper to quash the proceedings at this stage when the investigation is not yet complete. The Court made this observation after the State of Maharashtra handed over some documents from the case diary to the Bench in a sealed envelope.
Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, arguing for Navlakha, pointed out to the Court that Navlakha is ready to submit himself to interrogation whenever he is called. He has not been sought to be interrogated till now despite the passage of 18 months, Singhvi added.
At this point, the Court asked why relief under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was not sought.
There is no chargesheet filed against Navlakha in the case yet, Singhvi pointed out to the Court. While Navlakha was slapped with charges under the UAPA, he is still not alleged to be a member of any unlawful association, the Senior Advocate submitted.
The question pertaining to the direct membership of an accused in a banned or unlawful association under the UAPA and the issue concerning Section 10 of the Act is pending consideration by a larger Bench, Justice Mishra told Singhvi. He further added that commenting on the merits of Navlakha’s case would be “hazardous” in light of the same.
Having said this, the Court granted the alternative relief sought by Navlakha and extended his interim protection by four weeks. The interim protection will enable him to move the concerned Court to seek pre-arrest or regular bail.
The present case is an appeal against a judgment of Bombay High Court, which had refused to quash the FIR against Gautam Navlakha. The FIR accuses Navlakha of having links with banned Naxal groups. While dismissing Navlakha’s plea, the High Court had granted him interim protection from arrest to enable him to move the Supreme Court in appeal.
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 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.
Today, the Bombay High Court denied bail to activists and lawyers Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Arun Ferreira, arrested in Bhima Koregaon case.