Supreme Court allows activist Navlakha to be moved from jail to house arrest

He will be under strict police watch; Internet access or separate phone not allowed

November 10, 2022 08:47 pm | Updated 11:53 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Activist Gautam Navlakha. File.

Activist Gautam Navlakha. File. | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed activist Gautam Navlakha to be shifted from Taloja Jail to house arrest in Navi Mumbai while imposing strict police surveillance on his interactions and movements, as in prison.

The activist was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 2018 for alleged Maoist links and involvement in the Bhima Koregaon riots that year. The chargesheet was filed in 2020 and the trial is yet to begin.

A Bench of Justices K.M. Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy said Mr. Navlakha should start his house arrest within 48 hours at a modest residential property in Navi Mumbai. He has been directed to pay ₹ 2.4 lakh to cover the expenses of police deployment at his house. The money would be deposited via demand draft with the Mumbai Police Commissioner. He should also pay for the CCTV cameras that would be installed on his house premises. The State of Maharashtra should carry out the necessary security screening of the place where Mr. Navlakha would be placed under house arrest. He was ordered to pay ₹ 3 lakh as local surety before his transfer to house arrest.

Next hearing in mid-December

The court said the house arrest, ordered primarily considering the 70-year-old man’s health and the facts of the case, including that he had been in custody for long, would continue till the next hearing in the second week of December, when it would be open for review. The payment for the police guard would also be reviewed on that date.

The court has prohibited him from using mobile phones, laptop or any other communication devices while in house arrest. However, he has been allowed to use a phone, not a smart phone, which the police personnel would give for a conversation, which should not exceed 10 minutes, in the presence of the police. There would be no Internet access.

The court said the restrictions were necessary, considering the fact that he was charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for alleged Maoist links. The National Investigation Agency said it did not want him to communicate with any outsiders, who could be suspected Maoists.

His companion, who would be staying with him, would also have restricted use of her mobile phone. They would also be allowed a housekeeper, whose credentials would be verified by the police.

Mr. Navlakha would be allowed a daily outdoor walk with police escort and was prohibited from entering into conversation with outsiders during the time. He would be allowed a TV, neither smart TV nor Internet-based, and two newspapers. Two known relatives would be allowed to visit him once a week and could spend three hours with him.

He should not try to influence witnesses in the case, the court directed.

On the NIA’s request, the court said he would be taken to the KEM Hospital for a medical evaluation before the next hearing.

Any violation of the stringent restrictions, if brought to the notice of the court by the police and found true, would result in immediate cancellation of the house arrest.

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