The Bombay High Court on Tuesday concluded the arguments in a plea by activist and journalist Gautam Navlakha seeking house arrest from Taloja Central Jail.
A division bench of justices S.B. Shukre and G.A. Sanap was hearing a plea by Mr. Navlakha, 70, an accused in the Bhima Koregaon caste violence case. He is seeking house arrest on the grounds of his poor health and sanitation conditions in the jail.
He has been lodged inside anda cell (solitary confinement) which is a high security cell, where he is allowed a walk in the open space for half an hour and has to clean his own cell. On Monday, the court was informed that he was denied a book written by famous author and humorist P.G. Wodehouse citing “security risk.”
However, on Tuesday, the Maharashtra government argued that it was during COVID-19 pandemic that precautions were taken by the prison authorities and hence the book was denied. The prosecutor added that the remark of “security risk” was made by the postal department, not the prison department. The court interrupted and said, “It is better not to point out your own contradictions” and asked, “Why was he not given the book? Is humour banished from jail?”
The prosecutor replied there are 2,800 books in jail, to which the court observed, “That is quite less. Even a secondary school would have more books. If there aren’t enough books, something can be done by the bar or by the court. Because access to books is very important, it is an important step towards reformation of jail inmates.”
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh representing the National Investigation Agency, probing the case, pointed out that Mr. Navlakha’s bail application on merits is pending before the Sessions court. Moreover, his medical bail has also been rejected. This is the fourth application indirectly for bail or his release. He contended if this application is allowed, the high court will be flooded with such requests, we will need guards to work in shifts. it is not possible for every jail inmate.