Journalist and human rights activist Navlakha, an accused in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case, is charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. During his custody as an undertrial prisoner, a charge sheet was filed on October 9, 2020, and charges are yet to be filed by the court. The petitioner, in custody since April 2020, stands accused along with 15 others. He had been lodged at Taloja Central Jail in Mumbai, awaiting trial.
On November 10, a division bench comprising Justices Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy allowed Navlakha to be placed under house arrest for a period of one month under certain restrictions. On November 19, after hearing and incorporating further concerns of the National Investigation Agency (‘NIA’), the bench dismissed the petition filed by the NIA to vacate the order granting Navlakha’s house arrest, and directed the present order to be implemented within 24 hours of its pronouncement.
Further, on Monday, a division bench of the Bombay High Court comprising Justices Ajey S. Gadkari and Justice Prakash D. Naik issued notice to the NIA seeking a reply to Navlakha’s regular bail application. The present application seeking bail challenges the order of the special NIA court, which rejected his bail application.
Navlakha was arrested on August 28, 2018, for his alleged involvement in the Elgar Parishad-Maoists links case. While he was initially kept under house arrest, he was subsequently sent to judicial custody in April 2020.
On April 26 this year, the Bombay high court dismissed Navlakha’s petition that sought his transfer from the Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai to house arrest. On May 23, Navlakha approached the NIA to be provided with a mosquito net, which he was previously allowed but subsequently taken away by the prison authorities. Earlier, prison authorities had refused his request for a new pair of spectacles, which were given only after media and legal intervention.
The prosecution in the case has filed a chargesheet exceeding 5,000 pages and intends to cross-examine at least 200 witnesses. Thirteen of the 16 accused persons are presently incarcerated, having now spent between two to over four years in judicial custody without trial. Another accused, tribal rights activist and Jesuit priest Fr. Stan Swamy, passed away in judicial custody in July last year after contracting COVID in prison while awaiting bail on medical grounds.