SC seeks NIA reply on Gautam Navlakha bail plea in Bhima Koregaon case

The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought reply from the National Investigation Agency on the bail plea of activist Gautam Navlakha in the alleged Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case.

A bench comprising Justices U.U. Lalit and K.M. Joseph issued notice to the probe agency on Navlakha’s plea challenging the Bombay High Court order of February 8 dismissing his bail plea. Navlakha had moved the High Court challenging a special court order, which declined to entertain his application for default bail last year.

“The main question that arises in the present petition is whether a period of 34 days when the petitioner was in custody by way of house arrest pursuant to orders of the Delhi High Court and this court modifying transit remand order August 28, 2018 of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Sake court, New Delhi, would count as custody for the purpose of default bail under Section 167(2) CrPC”, said Navlakha’s plea.

After a brief hearing in the matter, the top court issued notice to NIA and sought its reply by March 15.

Navlakha has argued that the top court and the Delhi High Court cut short or paused police custody does not imply that it was not custody at all. “It is also pertinent to note that although the house arrest was judicial custody there was a brief period of time when the petitioner was in the custody of the police. The police arrested him, his house was searched, and the police seized his devices”, argued the plea.

The case is in connection with provocative statements made by some activists at the Elgar Parishad meet in Pune on December 31, 2017, which triggered violence at Koregaon Bhima in the district the next day. The police suspects that event was backed by some Maoist groups.

The High Court had said it does not see any compelling reason to interfere with a NIA court’s order of July 12, 2020, which rejected his plea for statutory bail.