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The Supreme Court today extended the interim protection granted to Gautam Navlakha in the Bhima Koregaon case till October 15. Navlakha has moved the Supreme Court seeking the quashing of the FIR against him.
The matter needs to be heard in detail, the Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta observed and directed the State of Maharashtra to place all the material before the Court.
The interim protection from arrest afforded to Navlakha by the Bombay High court which was to end today has also been extended by the Supreme Court till the next date of hearing.
Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi arguing for Navlakha told the Court that Navlakha had been under a protective umbrella for around 18 months. There is nothing the investigative agencies cannot do while this protection continues, Singhvi told the Court.
Further, arguing on the communications allegedly exchanged between Navlakha and other accused in the case, Singhvi said that all these letters, barring one, were recovered from other accused persons. Only one letter was recovered from the computer of Rona Wilson’s and his.
Singhvi also went on to submit that Navlakha has neither been named in the FIR nor has the State alleged that he belongs to any unlawful association. However, the provisions of the UAPA have still been invoked against him, Singhvi pointed out.
The Bench while asking Singhvi why the Court wasn’t moved for anticipatory bail instead of quashing of FIR, also asked the State of Maharashtra how Sections of the UAPA were invoked against Navlakha without naming him as a member of an unlawful association.
Singhvi, who pressed for interim protection, also submitted that this case should be heard along with the case concerning transit remand against Gautam Navlakha, which was kept pending by the Supreme Court.
The Court noted that this case required a detailed hearing and posted the case for hearing on October 15.
After five judges recused themselves from hearing the case, the matter was placed before the Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta.
The petition by Navlakha is an appeal against a judgment of Bombay High Court, which had refused to quash the FIR against him. 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. The interim protection thus granted is scheduled to lapse today.
The Bombay High Court had arrived at the prima facie conclusion that there exists sufficient material for the probe to continue against Navlakha. The High Court had, however, emphasized that the observations made in its order are only prima facie in nature and that they should not influence the trial court’s decision in the matter.
The State of Maharashtra had filed a caveat in the Supreme Court on September 16 in this case.
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 the Indian Penal Code (IPC), amounting to waging a war against the State, conspiring to commit certain offences against the State, and sedition.