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Bhima Koregaon: “Custodial interrogation of Gautam Navlakha is necessary” Pune Court refuses anticipatory bail

Bhima Koregaon: “Custodial interrogation of Gautam Navlakha is necessary” Pune Court refuses anticipatory bail

Omkar Gokhale

The Sessions Court in Pune today refused to grant anticipatory bail to activist Gautam Navlakha, accused in Bhima Koregaon case. The Court has also rejected Navlakha’s application seeking a three-day extension from arrest.

Rejecting the anticipatory bail, the Court said that there is prima facie enough material to show Navlakha is not only a member of a banned organization (Communist Party of India- Maoist) but ‘an active leader’ as well.

The Court observed,

“It is clear that there is prima facie sufficient material to show that the applicant is not only a member of a banned organization but an active leader. Prima facie it can be noted that the organisation of Elgar Parishad at Pune was part of a larger conspiracy of the banned organization and Bhima Koregaon episode is one of the instances of execution of the said conspiracy. Therefore, the question of jurisdiction either of Pune Police or of this Court cannot be said to have merits, at least at this stage.”

The Additional Sessions Judge at Pune, SR Navandar on November 7 had reserved its order in the plea for pre-arrest bail filed by activist Gautam Navlakha after hearing the arguments advanced by both Navlakha and the Pune Police.

The Court in its order noted that Pune Police, an investigating agency is making efforts to arrest the applicant for custodial interrogation since August 2018. However, the applicant Navlakha was getting protection from higher courts and therefore investigating machinery could not interrogate him effectively till this day

The order states,

“From the above facts, what is transpired is that unless the applicant is taken in custody and interrogated thoroughly, it is not possible to go to the root of the case and to trace out the different links which have been traced in the letter communication of the members of the banned organisation.”

Navlakha had moved the Pune Court on November 5, one 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. That order of the Supreme court ultimately led to the filing of this application.

In seeking pre-arrest bail, Navlakha had contended that in over a year, the Pune Police has not brought forth any connection between him and the incident or any plan for disruption as alleged by the Police. There is merely an allegation of a suspicion that Navlakha is acquainted with certain alleged members of the banned organization, the CPI (Maoist), Navlakha claimed.

Navlakha had also contested the claims made by the Pune Police as regards the recovery of certain documents and letters allegedly recovered from his computer.

In this regard, the Court referred to several documents produced by Pune Police, including a report prepared on Navlakha, which was allegedly found in the laptop of co-accused Rona Wilson.

In light of the said report, the Court noted,

“This report gives an idea as to how the applicant is involved in the activities of the banned organization and as to how he co-ordinates with different terrorist groups and organizations. There is a specific reference of his contacts with the separatist leaders of Kashmir and office-bearers of Hijbul Mujahiddin.”

The Court went on to note that letters found with co-accused show that applicant Navlakha had attended meetings of frontal organisations and he was involved in the recruitment process. For that purpose, he was in contact with the separatists from Jammu and Kashmir, the Court said.

“If his activities are taken into account in the light of the document ‘strategy and tactics’ what can be prima facie conceived is that he is an urban Maoist, who is in furtherance of the objectives of the banned organization discharging his responsibilities.”

After perusing material on record, the Court refused to grant Navlakha anticipatory bail and also rejected his application seeking 3-day extension from arrest.

Parting with the plea, Additional Sessions Judge S R Navandar ruled,

“In view of the above observations, I found that custodial interrogation of the applicant is necessary and hence no anticipatory bail can be granted at this stage.”

Navlakha is likely to approach Bombay High Court tomorrow in appeal against Sessions Court order.

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 Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and Sections 121, 121 (a), and 124 of Indian Penal Code (IPC), amounting to waging a war against the State, conspiring to commit certain offences against the State, and sedition.

[Read Order here]