Supreme Court on Tuesday disposed civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha’s plea seeking quashing of FIR filed against him in the Bhima Koregaon case. He has been asked to seek pre-arrest bail under Section 438 of CrPC within four weeks.
The decision came after a bench of justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta heard the arguments in the case. Mishra said that it won’t be proper to quash the FIR when the investigation is underway.
Senior Advocate A M Singhvi, representing Navlakha, submitted that the offences under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) were not attracted to the accused.
During the hearing, the Maharashtra government also handed a sealed cover containing case documents to the bench.
The apex court had earlier extended the interim protection from arrest granted by the Bombay High Court to Navlakha in the Bhima Koregaon violence case till October 15. It had directed the Maharashtra government to place before it the material collected during the ongoing investigation against him in connection with the case.
Earlier, the Bombay High Court had refused to quash the FIR lodged against him in the 2017 Bhima Koregaon case 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,” it had said.
Also read: Koregaon Bhima Case: HC Refuses Bail to Bharadwaj, Ferriera and Gonsalves
The high court had, however, extended the protection from arrest to Navlakha for three weeks to enable him to approach the Supreme Court to file an appeal against its order.
The FIR was lodged against Navlakha and others 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 has also alleged that Navlakha and other accused in the case had Maoist links and were working towards overthrowing the government. Navlakha and the other accused were booked under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code. Besides Navlakha, four others – Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Sudha Bharadwaj, are accused in the case.
FIVE JUDGES RECUSE FROM CASE
A day before the hearing on October 4, Justice S Ravindra Bhat had recused himself from hearing a plea filed by Navlakha. He was the fifth judge who had recused himself from this case.
On September 30, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had recused himself from hearing Navlakha's plea. Later on October 1, the three judges of a bench – justices N V Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai – had also recused themselves from hearing the matter.