India

Bhima Koregaon case: SC releases Gautam Navlakha on bail, stating trial might “take years”

Navlakha is now the seventh of 16 Bhima Koregaon case defendants to receive bail.

In recent news, the Supreme Court has allowed Gautam Navlakha, accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, to be released on bail. He is required to deposit Rs 20 Lakhs to secure his release under house arrest.

Justices MM Sundresh and SVN Bhatti were reviewing the National Investigative Agency’s objection to the Bombay High Court’s decision to grant bail to Navlakha. Arrested on April 14, 2020, for his supposed role in the Bhima Koregaon violence in Pune on January 1, 2018. Navlakha has been under house arrest since November 2022 due to health issues.

Last December, Justices AS Gadkari and Shivkumar Dige of the High Court approved Navlakha’s bail, citing insufficient evidence of terrorism under UAPA Section 15. Despite this, the High Court paused its decision for three weeks upon the NIA’s request to appeal to the Supreme Court, a delay that was repeatedly extended.

Today, the Supreme Court lifted the temporary hold, acknowledging Navlakha’s four-year imprisonment and the anticipated lengthy trial ahead. The court noted the absence of formal charges against him.

 Legal Arguments and Conditions

Senior Advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan, representing Navlakha, highlighted the unfairness of his prolonged detention and the fact that other co-accused had been granted bail. She questioned the hefty sum demanded for house arrest, arguing it didn’t reflect Navlakha’s earnings.

On the other hand, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju argued against bail, pointing out that not all co-accused were released and emphasizing the gravity of the accusations.

Regarding house arrest, the court instructed Navlakha to pay Rs 20 Lakhs as an interim measure, a mandatory condition set by the High Court for his bail.

Previously, Advocate Ramakrishnan informed the court of the extensive witness list in the case, leading to the court’s estimation of a decade-long trial. She also voiced concerns over the High Court’s bail order being stayed without a hearing. Consequently, the court scheduled the hearing for today.

Additionally, the court considered Navlakha’s request to change his house arrest location in Mumbai. In a prior session, the court had stated that Navlakha should cover the NIA’s surveillance costs if he sought house arrest. Navlakha’s lawyer, Shadan Farasat, assured the court that paying these costs would not be an issue.

Navlakha is now the seventh of sixteen Bhima Koregaon case defendants to receive bail. Others include Sudha Bharadwaj, Anand Teltumbde, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, and Varavara Rao. Professor Shoma Sen was also granted bail by the Supreme Court recently. Although Mahesh Raut received bail from the Bombay High Court, it was put on hold, and Father Stan Swamy passed away while in custody in July 2021.

Dr. Shubhangi Jha

Avid reader, infrequent writer, evolving

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