Supreme Court stays Delhi High Court proceedings on Navlakha bail plea

Activist Gautam Navlakha being arrested by the Pune police at his residence in Nehru Enclave in Delhi on August 28, 2018.

Activist Gautam Navlakha being arrested by the Pune police at his residence in Nehru Enclave in Delhi on August 28, 2018.   | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

A Single Judge Bench of the High Court had questioned NIA’s “frantic hurry” to shift him to Mumbai.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered a stay of proceedings on a petition for bail filed by civil rights campaigner Gautam Navlakha in the Delhi High Court in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence case.

A Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra passed the stay order merely a week after a Single Judge Bench of Justice Anup Bhambhani of the Delhi High Court questioned the “inexplicable, frantic hurry” with which the National Investigation Agency (NIA) shifted Mr. Navlakha out of Delhi to Mumbai.

“While ordinarily this court would not see too much cause for hurry in this case, in view of the inexplicable, frantic hurry shown by the NIA in moving the applicant [Navlakha] from Delhi to Mumbai while this matter was pending and the NIA had itself sought time to file status report, this court does get a sense that all proceedings in this jurisdiction would be rendered utterly infructuous if an element of of urgency is not brought to bear on the present proceedings...” Justice Bhambhani had noted in his seven-page order on May 27.

“Unseemly haste”

All the more puzzling was the fact that Mr. Navlakha was bundled out a day before his bail hearing was scheduled on May 27.

The Single Judge Bench noted that the NIA “has acted in unseemly haste to remove the applicant out of the very jurisdiction of this court; and, if the applicant is right, without even informing the Special Judge (NIA), Mumbai, or the Special Judge (NIA), Delhi, of the pendency of the present proceedings,” the order read.

Justice Bhambhani had considered the turn of events in the Navlakha case so urgent that the Bench ordered the NIA officer in charge of the investigation to be present in court on May 27 afternoon.

In the post-lunch session, the NIA officer had explained to the High Court that its “hurry” to get production warrants was done in the background of the uncertainty surrounding the lockdown and availability of inter-State flights. The High Court responded by asking the officer to file an affidavit and a “complete copy” of the proceedings for Mr. Navlakha’s production warrant before the Special Judge (NIA), Mumbai. The High Court had fixed the hearing for June 3.

Hearing after 15 days

Following this development, the NIA urgently challenged the May 27 order in the apex court. On Tuesday, in a virtual court hearing, the apex court issued notice to Mr. Navlakha and listed the case after 15 days.

Sixty-seven-year-old Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde, an academic and scholar, were ordered by the Supreme Court in April to surrender in the Bhima Koregaon case. At that time, they had pleaded that sending them to jail amid the COVID-19 pandemic was “virtually a death sentence.”

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Printable version | Jul 12, 2020 7:47:41 AM |

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