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

[Bhima Koregaon] Supreme Court sets aside Delhi HC order calling for records of Gautam Navlakha, remarks against NIA to be expunged

The Supreme Court observed that the case falls within the jurisdiction of the Bombay High Court, and therefore, the Delhi High Court ought not have entertained the interim bail plea filed by Gautam Navlakha.

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today set aside the order passed by the Delhi High Court calling for an affidavit from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) over Gautam Navlakha's shift from Delhi to Mumbai (National Investigation Agency v. Gautam Navlakha).

The Court also directed that the remarks made by the Delhi High Court against the NIA be expunged from the order.

The order was passed by a Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha in NIA's plea challenging the Delhi High Court order which had sought records of the judicial proceedings concerning Navlakha before special courts in Delhi and Mumbai, in relation to the Bhima Koregaon case.

The Court said that the Delhi High Court ought not have entertained the interim bail plea filed by civil rights activist Navlakha in the Bhima Koregaon case, given that the case now falls under the jurisdiction of the Bombay High Court.

 J Arun Mishra, J Navin Sinha
J Arun Mishra, J Navin Sinha
The High Court of Delhi should not have entertained the application at the threshold, the observations made are hereby ordered to be expunged.
Supreme Court said in its order

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the Court today that at the time of Navlakha's surrender before the NIA, the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown was imposed. However, his production warrant was issued by the Special Court in Mumbai at a time when the city was gradually reopening. Mehta submitted that the Delhi High Court was also informed of the facts and the timeline of events.

Mehta further argued that the High Court ceased to have jurisdiction in the case after Navlakha was produced before the Mumbai Court via video conferencing, and was subsequently placed under remand by the orders of the Special Court there. He also pointed out that all the other accused persons in the Bhima Koregaon case are in Mumbai.

"Unwarranted remarks such as NIA was in a hurry to take accused to Mumbai was not needed."
SG Tushar Mehta

Appearing for Navlakha, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal questioned how a petition under Article 136 could lie against an order by the High Court merely calling for an affidavit.

"How can an Article 136 plea lie against a High Court order merely calling for an affidavit? This is not an order granting bail... Just an affidavit to understand the situation under which accused was taken to Mumbai."
Kapil Sibal

The Bench, however, raised the question as to why the Delhi High Court entertained the interim bail plea filed by Navlakha when the Court was expressly informed of the case now being in Mumbai's jurisdiction. Justice Sinha observed that Navlakha should have moved the Special NIA Court under Section 43 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

The Court then proceeded to allow the petition filed by the NIA and set aside the order passed by the Delhi High Court. The Court also directed for the remarks made against the NIA to be expunged from the order, while clarifying that no aspersions were being cast on the judge who passed the order.

"Delhi High Court should not have entertained interim bail plea of Navlakha as the case comes within the jurisdiction of Bombay High Court."
Supreme Court observed

The Apex Court, in its order, said that it is clear that Navlakha was given the liberty to approach the appropriate jurisdictional Court when he was directed to surrender before the NIA. As such, the Courts in Mumbai ought to have been approached. The application filed for interim relief before the Delhi High Court was one of "misconceived venture".

The order passed by the Supreme Court on April 8 directing Navlakha, along with Anand Teltumbe, to surrender before the NIA had made the jurisdiction clear.

In case any modification of the order dated 08.04.2020 was required, it was incumbent upon the respondent to apply to this court, which he did not do. Thus, the entire exercise taken by the High Court of Delhi was totally uncalled for as the spirit of our order is apparent.
Supreme Court says in its order

The Delhi High Court's May 27 order was passed after Navlakha was taken from Delhi's Tihar Jail to Mumbai. Challenging the High Court's order as being "patently without jurisdiction", the NIA had moved the Supreme Court and on June 2, a Bench headed by Justices Mishra issued notice to Navlakha on the same.

The Apex Court had also stayed the proceedings before the Delhi High Court while issuing notice on the agency's plea.

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