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Bombay High Court reserves verdict in plea by Gautam Navlakha to be transferred from Taloja prison to house arrest

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The Bombay High Court on Tuesday, has reserved its verdict in the plea filed by Bhima Koregaon accused Gautam Navlakha asking to be transferred from Taloja prison and be given house arrest. 

The human Rights activist and former secretary of People’s Union for Democratic Rights Gautam Navlakha, was arrested in August 2018, and was initially placed under house arrest, but later was shifted to the Taluja central prison in Maharashtra after the Supreme Court order in April  2020

Navlakha moved to the High Court telling he was denied basic necessities including medication and is subjected to hardship at his age.

After hearing to the Council for Navlakha, Taloja Central prison and NIA, the bench of Justice SB Shukre and Justice GA Sanap have reserved the plea for orders.

Also Read: Gauhati High Court disposed PIL after petitioners grievance of investigation by an independent agency were met

The Advocate  for Gautam Navlakha made the following submissions:

  • Navlakha had been under house arrest for 35 days before being protected from arrest by the  thereafter for over 1 year and 7 months without any prejudice having been caused to the investigation agencies;
  • Navlakha has not been alleged for perpetrating a violent act or being involved in any violent act;
  • All the evidence have been seized and chargesheets have been made , so there is no question of tampering with evidence and thus Navlakha can be allowed as per his
  • To keep a 70 year old in a facility where necessities are not available, is not a good idea
  • No criminal antecedents are available for Navlakha
  • Navlakha can also partly bear expenses of being detained at home, if Court so opines

The petition was opposed by the Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh who appeared for NIA

  •  Special NIA Court should have been approached with an application for house arrest before coming to High Court;
  • Grounds raised in the plea are general and does not justify the prayer for house arrest;
  • Keeping Navlakha in House arrest will pose practical difficulties.
  •  Gautam Navlakha’s  regular bail application is pending before the Special NIA Court, so the submissions like offences charged and delay in trial can be made before the Special Court as well;
  • Navlakha did not challenge when his medical bail application was rejected earlier without assigning proper reasons;
  • The default bail application by Navlakha was also rejected, and the present application was indirectly seeking bail under the garb of house arrest;
  • Many a jails have over 1000 people who are above 70 and if the present plea is allowed, others will also approach courts seeking house arrest because of ailments, and it will be difficult to implement those orders;
  • There are practical difficulties in implementing the order, as the house logistics will have to be worked out, and also the aspect that the person accompanying him may be active on social media;

Also Read: Allahabad High Court stays criminal case proceedings in Judicial Magistrate court in Jhansi

The Taloja jail also appeared with Additional Public Prosecutor Sangeeta Shinde appearing for Taloja Central Prison to respond on behalf .She stated that

during COVID period, prison authorities had decided not to accept any parcels either by post or delivery to control spread of COVID in prisons. This was the reason why a book sent to Navlakha was returned, it was contended.”

The Court, however, refused to accept the submission.

The Bench sated that the order of prison officials was unclear about the returning the parcel and it seems that the prisons officials appeared to have considered the parcel as a “security threat”.

However, Shinde agreed and submitted that Navlakha was staying alone in a high security cell within the prison, where he was the only inmate in the cell and had an attached washroom, which he himself has to clean as per jail manual.

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