Gautam Navlakha, Supreme Court
Gautam Navlakha, Supreme Court
Litigation News

Bhima Koregaon: Supreme Court stays proceedings before Delhi High Court for Gautam Navlakha's interim bail, issues notice on NIA's plea

Debayan Roy

The Supreme Court today issued notice in the plea filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) challenging a Delhi High Court order questioning the hasty overnight transfer of Gautam Navlakha from Delhi to Mumbai. (NIA vs Gautam Navlakha)

The Supreme Court has also stayed the proceedings before the High Court in the meantime until further orders.

The Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Indira Banerjee issued notice in the plea filed by the NIA today and fixed the matter to be heard "after fifteen days".

Issue Notice. Until further orders, the proceedings before the High Court shall remain stayed.
The Supreme Court said

The NIA had moved the Supreme Court against the order of the Delhi High Court which had opined that the 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.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the NIA, submitted that this order was "patently without jurisdiction."

The primary contention of NIA harps on a jurisdictional challenge to the Delhi High Court order as the plea states that Navlakha was "charged by an authority outside the territorial jurisdiction" of the Delhi High Court primarily because the remand order of the accused was passed by a Special NIA Judge in Mumbai.

The High Court order under challenge was passed by a Single Judge Bench of Justice Anup J Bhambhani, who heard Navlakha's plea for interim bail on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.

NIA also questioned the maintainability of Navlakha's bail plea at the High Court on the grounds that the charges against Navlakha include scheduled offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and therefore a bail plea would lie before a Special NIA Court only.

It is NIA's case before the Supreme Court that an interim bail plea filed by persons accused under the UAPA can be heard by Division Benches of High Courts, in appeal against orders of Special NIA Judges as per a combined reading of Section 13, 14, 16 and Section 21 of the NIA Act.

On May 22, the High 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.

Based upon the production warrants, an application was moved on May 25 seeking an order for Navlakha's transfer. That date, however, was a gazetted holiday on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr.

Ultimately, the transfer application was allowed and Navlakha was put on a train on May 26 and taken away to Mumbai before the interim bail plea could be taken up by the Delhi High Court.

Observing that there was a purported haste with which the NIA had acted, the High Court directed the NIA to file a report with the details pursuant to Navlakha's transfer, complete with his medical records as well as proceedings before the Mumbai court.

The NIA was represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, Additonal Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, Advocate Kanu Agrawal, and Advocate Swati Ghildiyal before the Supreme Court today.

Navlakha had surrendered before the NIA on April 14 after the Supreme Court on April 8 had extended the interim protection from arrest for Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde by a week and directed the two activists to surrender by this time.

Before surrendering, Navlakha had penned an open letter flagging his concerns about his vulnerability to COVID-19 and disappointment that the Apex Court had not factored in the same in its order.

Read Order:

NIA vs Gautam Navlakha - 02.06.2020.pdf
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