Gautam Navlakha and Delhi HC
Gautam Navlakha and Delhi HC
Litigation News

[Bhima Koregaon] Prima facie, NIA acted in unseemly haste in moving Gautam Navlakha from Delhi to Mumbai: Delhi HC

Angelenne

The Delhi High Court has prima facie opined that the National Investigating Agency (NIA) acted in "unseemly haste" in moving Gautam Navlakha from Delhi to Mumbai while his plea for interim bail in the Bhima Koregaon case was still pending before it. (Gautam Nalakha vs State)

The observation forms part of the order passed by a Single Judge Bench of Justice Anup J Bhambhani while it was hearing Navlakha plea for interim bail on account of COVID-19 contagion.

Justice Anup J Bhambhani
Justice Anup J Bhambhani

On May 22, the Court had issued notice to the NIA and granted it time to file its status report.

However, before the matter could be taken up again, Navlakha was taken to Mumbai pursuant to a production warrant from a Mumbai Court.

When the matter was taken up by Justice Bhambhani yesterday, counsel for Navlakha stated that although Navlakha's judicial sutody was extended by a Delhi Court till June 22, on May 24, which was a Sunday, an application was moved by the NIA before a Mumbai Court seeking a production warrant in Navlakha's name.

Based upon the production warrants so issued, an application was moved on May 25, which was a Gazetted holiday on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr, seeking a transfer/transit order for Navlakha's transfer, it was added.

Ultimately, the transfer application was allowed and Navlakha was put on a train on May 26 and taken away to Mumbai, the Court was informed.

Counsel for Navlakha argued that the only purpose for which the NIA acted in such a haste was to render the present proceedings infructuous.

Considering the "evident haste shown by the NIA by moving applications across Mumbai and Delhi over weekends and Gazetted holidays", the Court deemed it necessary to call for the presence of the Investigating Officer of the case via video-conferencing to answer certain factual queries.

At that stage, Solictior General Tushar Mehta submitted that the appearance of the Investigating Officer by video-conferencing might be taken-up on the next date and that he would file an additional affidavit.

The Court recollected that on May 22, the NIA had informed the Court that it was planning to transfer the applicant to Mumbai sometime soon in view of opening-up of air travel after obtaining orders from the competent court, but went on to remark,

While ordinarily this court would not see too much cause for hurry in this case, in view of the inexplicable, frantic hurry shown by the NIA in moving the applicant from Delhi to Mumbai while this matter was pending and the NIA had itself sought time to file status report, this Court does get a sense that all proceedings in this jurisdiction would be rendered utterly infructuous if an element of urgency is not brought to bear on the present proceedings.
Delhi High Court

It added,

Prima-facie it appears that while on the last date, this Court had granted adequate time to the NIA to file its status report in response to the interim bail plea; and while the NIA has filed an affidavit opposing that plea, the NIA has acted in unseemly haste to instead remove the applicant out of the very jurisdiction of this court; and, if the applicant is right, without even informing the Special Judge (NIA), Mumbai or the Special Judge (NIA), Delhi of the pendency of the present proceedings.
Delhi High Court

Subsequently, a web-link was sent to the Investigating Officer, NIA, Mumbai to enable him to join the proceedings.

As an explanation for the hurry for issuance of production warrants,the Investigating Officer stated that he had moved an application for issuance of production warrants on May 23 i.e. Saturday, which came to be listed the next day Sunday.

It was explained the applications for Navlakha's transfer were moved on May 23 in view of the opening of inter-state travel and the uncertainity of the future course of events in relation to the lockdown.

After hearing the Officer, the Court directed him to file an affidavit on the lines of his responses and also furnish the complete copy of the proceedings and court record with respect to Navlakha's transfer.

The Court also called for a copy of Navlakha's last medical status report in Delhi and Mumbai.

The matter would be heard next on June 3.

Advocates Nitya Ramakrishnan, Warisha Farasat, Shruti Narayan appeared for Navlakha.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta Standing Counsel Amit Mahajan appeared for NIA.

Read the Order:

Gautam Nalakha vs State - May 27.pdf
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