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Pune court to rule on Gautam Navlakha’s anticipatory bail plea on November 12

Gautam Navlakha.

Gautam Navlakha.  

Additional sessions court judge S.R. Navandar asks police to not take any coercive action against accused till then

The Pune sessions court on Thursday reserved orders on the anticipatory bail plea of Delhi-based author and civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha for November 12.

Mr. Navlakha is named as an accused by the Pune City police in the Elgaar Parishad case and is probing him, along with 21 other prominent lawyers, academics, Dalit and human rights activists, for alleged links with the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Additional Sessions Judge S.R. Navandar heard the arguments of both the prosecution and the defence on Mr. Navlakha’s plea.

Opposing the bail, district government pleader Ujjwala Pawar dubbed Mr. Navlakha an “anti-national” who she alleged was trying to unite the banned CPI (Maoist) with the outlawed Hizb-ul-Mujahideen terror group.

Ms. Pawar sought Mr. Navlakha’s custody to enable the authorities to ascertain the ‘damage’ caused by the accused’s alleged links with the Maoists and the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen.

“As the material seized from his [Mr. Navlakha’s] possession shows him to be an active member of the banned Maoist organisation, we need his custody to determine how many youths were recruited by the accused as well as the nature of funding given to the outlawed group,” the government pleader asserted.

She also submitted some of the ‘material evidence’ to the court in a sealed envelope.

Taking objection to this, defence counsel Ragini Ahuja said that if the material was indeed recovered from Mr. Navlakha’s possession, it must be shared with the defence in order to gauge its veracity.

Ms. Ahuja further submitted that there was no incriminating evidence to prove Mr. Navlakha’s involvement in any illicit or anti-national activity as alleged by the authorities and the prosecution.

“Despite the authorities’ claim of Mr. Navlakha’s name being mentioned in the so-called Maoist communiqués, there is no evidence to prove he was complicit in any ‘terrorist’ activity. His work as part of fact-finding missions in strife-torn areas is completely legal,” Ms. Ahuja argued.

After hearing both sides, Judge Navandar said that he would pass an order on Mr. Navlakha’s plea on November 12 and asked police not to take any coercive action against the accused till then.

The Bombay High Court had on Monday directed Mr. Navlakha to approach the Pune court for anticipatory bail.

The activist had accordingly withdrawn his anticipatory bail plea in the High Court and filed a plea before the Pune court the next day.

In September, the Bombay High Court had refused to quash the Pune police’s case against Mr. Navlakha. The case is registered under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which include charges of ‘sedition’.

However, the high court had at the time 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 Mr. Navlakha’s protection from arrest till October 15.

It later extended by four weeks the interim protection while granting him permission to approach an appropriate court to seek anticipatory bail.

This interim relief period expires on November 11.

On August 28 last year, the Pune City police had carried out a second countrywide crackdown in connection with the Elgaar Parishad and Bhima Koregaon violence case by searching residences of seven other academics and activists known for their dissenting views and work among the dispossessed.

The houses of Mr. Navlakha along with those of prominent activists Sudha Bharadwaj, P. Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Anand Teltumbde and Father Stan Swamy were searched at the time.

Ms. Bharadwaj, Mr. Rao, Mr. Gonsalves and Mr. Ferreira are presently in Pune’s Yerwada jail along with 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] and 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, 2018, 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 almost eight hours and witnessed the participation of thousands of persons from more than 250 progressive social outfits including several left-leaning and Ambedkarite groups from 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’.

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Printable version | Feb 29, 2020 10:35:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/pune-sessions-court-reserves-ruling-on-navlakhas-bail-plea/article29910748.ece

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