Bhima-Koregaon case: Justice Bhat fifth Supreme Court judge to recuse from hearing Navlakha’s plea

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]UPREME Court judge S Ravindra Bhat on Wednesday recused himself from hearing activist Gautam Navlakha’s plea, challenging Bombay High Court judgement that refused to quash FIR registered against him by Pune police under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Indian Penal Code in 2018 Bhima Koregaon case.

The matter was listed before the bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and S Ravindra Bhat. Justice Bhat is the fifth top court judge to have opted out of the case.

On September 30, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had recused himself from hearing the plea, without stating any reasons. Later, on October 1, Justices N V Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai recused themselves from hearing Navlakha’s plea.

The bench directed the petition to be heard by another bench tomorrow after it was informed that Navlakha’s interim protection, granted by the Bombay High Court is due to lapse on October 4.

On September 13, a two-judge bench of the Bombay High Court comprising Justices Ranjit More and Dangre refused to quash the FIR registered against Navlakha and said that there was “prima facie material against him” referring to the sealed envelope submitted by the Additional Public Prosecutor Aruna Pai.

The Pune police booked 65-year-old civil rights activist Navlakha and other activists under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Indian Penal Code.

The Bombay High Court while refusing to allow Navlakha’s plea had extended the protection from arrest for a period of three-week to enable him to approach the Supreme Court in an appeal against the High Court order.

Besides Navlakha, four other rights activists – Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Sudha Bharadwaj – are accused in the case.