Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Friday refused to quash the case lodged against civil liberties activist Gautam Navlakha in the Bhima-Koregaon violence and for having alleged Maoist links, noting that there was prima facie substance in the case.
"Considering the magnitude of the case, we feel a thorough investigation is required," a division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre said. The case is not without basis and absence of material," it added.
The bench, however, agreed and extended the protection from arrest to Navlakha for a period of three weeks to enable him to approach the Supreme Court in appeal against the HC order.
The bench dismissed the petition filed by Navlakha seeking to quash the FIR lodged against him by the Pune police in January 2018 after the Elgar Parishad held on December 31, 2017 that had allegedly triggered violence at Bhima Koregaon in Pune district the next day.
The police had also alleged that Navlakha and other accused in the case had Maoist links and were working towards overthrowing the government.
"The offence is not limited to Koregaon-Bhima violence. There are many more facets to it. Hence, we feel investigation is required," the court said.
After the bench pronounced its judgment, Navlakha's counsel Yug Chaudhary sought an extension of the interim protection from arrest granted to Navlakha by the high court after he had filed the petition.
The bench agreed and extended the protection from arrest to Navlakha for a period of three weeks to enable him to approach the Supreme Court.
Navlakha and the other accused were booked under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code. His lawyer Chaudhary had argued that the activist was an author and a peace activist and was a specialist on conflict zones.
“He was in the past appointed as a mediator by the government of India when Naxals had kidnapped six policemen. He is in contact with Naxals but that is only for his books and other fact-finding research. How can this contact attract provisions of the UAPA," Chaudhary said.
"Navlakha has made democracy possible for those living on the margins. Such a person should be cherished and celebrated. But the government is persecuting him with charges like waging war against the nation and sedition," he argued.
Besides Navlakha, four others -- Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Sudha Bharadwaj, are accused in the case.