For Activist Gautam Navlakha, Supreme Court Relief On House Arrest

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Supreme Court's Sharp Words For Anti-Terror Body On Activist House Arrest

Gautam Navlakha, 70, has not been moved out of prison even a week after the Supreme Court order

New Delhi:

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) today said the Supreme Court was “deliberately misled” when it allowed house arrest for activist Gautam Navlakha, an accused in the Koregaon-Bhima case who is reportedly very unwell.

After a sharp back-and-forth, the Supreme Court said the probe agency must comply with its order within 24 hours and enhance safeguards.

Mr Navlakha, 70, has not been moved out of prison even a week after the Supreme Court order. The anti-terror agency, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, raised concerns about the safety of the location chosen by Mr Navlakha’s team and urged the court to revise its house arrest decision.

The Supreme Court reacted sharply to the objections. “Is Solicitor General Mehta and ASG (Additional Solicitor General SV Raju) here to say that the police can’t keep a watch on an ailing 70-year-old man?”

When the NIA sought time till Monday, Justice KM Joseph snapped: “You think we cannot see through attempts to delay the case? For what purpose will we post on Monday? We are passing an order.”

The agency repeated its allegation that Mr Navlakha has terror links, to which Justice Hrishikesh Roy said: “So? You say you cannot monitor then we will. When SG and ASG standing here saying can’t keep a 70-year-old ailing man in confinement. With all the might of the state… Is the state incapable of taking care? You can’t take care so let us take care.”

Mr Navlakha has been in jail since April 2020 in a case related to violence at Maharashtra’s Koregaon-Bhima on January 1, a day after alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at an Elgar Parishad conclave.

The Pune police had claimed the conclave was backed by Maoists.

Last week, responding to his request on health grounds, the Supreme Court allowed him house arrest for a month and said the order must be implemented within 48 hours. But his release has been delayed. The NIA is “dragging its feet”, his lawyer alleged.

The NIA argued that the activist’s medical condition argument “is a sham”.

“We have moved an application to vacate the previous order. The facts are really disturbing. Everyone started with a presumption that Gautam Navlakha was not well,” the Solicitor General said. “He refused to go to three hospitals. Every time there was a health issue, he was taken to hospital, in some cases, he himself refused to go to hospital.”

Mr Mehta added: “I am discharging this duty with a heavy heart. There are several inmates… same age and same ailments… but they don’t have any luxury of home arrest. Your lordships were deliberately misled.”

The agency said the building chosen for Mr Navlakha’s house arrest is a Communist Party of India (CPI) office.

Justice KM Joseph pointed out that the CPI is a recognised party of India. “What is the issue?” he questioned.

“If it does not shock you, then what can I say,” the Solicitor General replied.

“No, it does not shock us,” the Supreme Court shot back.

Mr Mehta pressed on: “A person accused of indulging in a serious terrorist act, being a Maoist, is staying at some political party’s office? What has this institution been driven to?”

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