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Elgaar Parishad case: Pune court rejects Gautam Navlakha’s anticipatory bail plea

Gautam Navlakha.

Gautam Navlakha.  

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It is likely that Mr. Navlakha would be soon taken in the custody of the Pune police as the extension of his interim relief period granted by the Supreme Court in October expires today

A special UAPA court in Pune on Tuesday rejected the anticipatory bail plea of Delhi-based journalist, author and civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha, who is an accused in the Elgaar Parishad case as well as for alleged links with the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Additional Sessions Judge S.R. Navandar passed the order on Mr. Navlakha’s plea, while also rejecting his application seeking a three-day extension from arrest.

It is likely that Mr. Navlakha would be soon taken in the custody of the Pune police as the extension of his interim relief period granted by the Supreme Court in October expires today.

The Pune police is probing Mr. Navlakha, along with 21 other prominent lawyers, academics, Dalit and human rights activists, in this case in which so far nine persons have been booked under relevant provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Earlier, the Bombay High Court had directed Mr. Navlakha to approach the Pune sessions court for anticipatory bail.

The Delhi-based activist had accordingly withdrawn his anticipatory bail plea in the Bombay High Court and filed a plea the next day.

In September this year, the Bombay High Court had refused to quash the Pune police’s case against Mr. Navlakha. The case was registered under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which included charging the activist with sedition.

However, the High Court had extended Mr. Navlakha’s interim relief from arrest by three weeks, allowing him to appeal in the Supreme Court.

On October 4, the Apex Court had extended Navlakha’s protection from arrest till October 15. This was extended by a further four weeks and is due to expire today.

Last week, the Pune court had heard the arguments of both the prosecution and the defence on Mr. Navlakha’s plea.

Arguing against giving him bail, prosecution lawyer Ujjwala Pawar dubbed Mr. Navlakha an “anti-national” who was allegedly trying to unite the banned CPI (Maoist) with the outlawed Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, a pro-Pakistani terror group from Kashmir.

Advocate Pawar sought Mr. Navlakha’s custodial interrogation on grounds that the authorities needed to ascertain the ‘damage’ caused by the alleged links held by the accused with the Maoists and the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen.

In his petition, Mr. Navlakha’s counsel had observed that the Pune Police has failed to establish any connection between him and the [Bhima-Koregaon clashes] incident or any plan for disrupting the established government of the country as alleged by the Police.

The petition had further observed that there was merely an allegation of a suspicion that Mr. Navlakha is acquainted with certain alleged members of the banned organization, the CPI (Maoist).

Mr. Navlakha’s counsel, lawyer Ragini Ahuja had argued that the activist had, in fact, a role to play in assisting the State in rescuing officials abducted by Maoists and that he had not only condemned left-wing violence but also negotiated on behalf of the State in the rescue operation for abducted officials.

The civil rights activist was first arrested by the police on August 28 last year in the second countrywide crackdown by the Pune police against prominent academics intellectuals in the Elgaar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case.

At the time, Mr. Navlakha was arrested with four other including poet P.Varavara Rao, activists Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves and trade unionist Sudha Bharadwaj, while the houses of academic Anand Teltumbde and tribal activist Father Stan Swamy were searched in a series of raids conducted by the Pune police against academics and activists known for their dissentious views against the powers that be and their work among the dispossessed.

However, the five including Mr. Navlakha were put under house arrest the very next day (on August 29) following a Supreme Court order on a plea filed by historian Romila Thapar along with economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devaki Jain among others against the Pune police’s action.

Since then, the spectre of being taken again into the police’s custody has dogged Mr. Navlakha.

Ms. Bharadwaj, Mr. Rao, Mr. Gonsalves and Mr. Ferreira are presently incarcerated in Pune's Yerwada prison along with other activists advocate Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut and Sudhir Dhawale.

The Pune City police’s case rests on an FIR registered at the city’s Vishrambaug police station (in January 2018) under sections 153 (a) [Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race etc], 505 1 (b) among others in connection with the ‘Elgaar Parishad’ held at Pune’s Shaniwarwada Fort on December 31, 2017 as part of the bicentenary celebrations of the Bhima-Koregaon battle.

The FIR, based on a complaint by one Tushar Damgude in the immediate aftermath of the Bhima-Koregaon clashes of January 1, was initially lodged against six participants, including Mr. Dhawale. Those named in the FIR were members of the Kabir Kala Manch – a radical Dalit cultural troupe.

The complainant had accused the KKM activists of making a number of “inflammatory” speeches and delivering “socially divisive” presentations during the course of the troupe’s performance and recitals at the ‘Elgaar Parishad’, which lasted nearly eight hours and witnessed the participation of thousands of persons from more than 250 progressive social outfits including several left-leaning and Ambedkarite groups across Maharashtra.

The raids and subsequent arrests of the prominent activists and academics were based on this FIR, with the Pune police claiming to have extended the scope of their investigations to unearth alleged ‘Maoist links’ held by these intellectuals.

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 7:29:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/elgaar-parishad-case-pune-court-rejects-gautam-navlakhas-anticipatory-bail-plea/article29953392.ece

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