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Bombay HC Grants Bail to Journalist-Activist Gautam Navlakha in Bhima Koregaon Case

Arrested in 2020, Navlakha has been under house arrest in Navi Mumbai since November 2022.
Gautam Navlakha

Arrested in 2020, Gautam Navlakha has been under house arrest in Navi Mumbai since November 2022.

New Delhi: Gautam Navlakha, a journalist and human rights activist arrested in the Bhima Koregaon riot case of 2018, finally secured bail from the Bombay High Court on Tuesday. 

Accused alongside scholar and activist Anand Teltumbde and nine others, Navlakha faced allegations linking them to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and their alleged involvement in the Bhima Koregaon violence.

The legal tussle began with Navlakha's persistent attempts to seek relief from the courts in Maharashtra to halt the investigation, which proved unsuccessful throughout 2018 and 2019. The case took a significant turn when the National Investigation Agency (NIA) took charge in January 2020, resulting in Navlakha's surrender as ordered by the Supreme Court.

The recent decision granting bail came after a series of legal twists. Initially, the special NIA court dismissed Navlakha's bail plea in September last year, leading him to approach the High Court. The High Court referred the bail application back to a special court for a fresh hearing, which eventually reaffirmed the bail rejection.

However, after a prolonged legal tussle, the Bombay High Court extended bail to Navlakha on Tuesday, mirroring the conditions imposed on his co-accused, Anand Teltumbde and Mahesh Raut. Notably, the court stayed the bail order for three weeks, allowing the National Investigation Agency a window to appeal the decision before the Supreme Court.

Navlakha had been under house arrest in Navi Mumbai since November 2022, following the Supreme Court's ruling citing his advanced age and medical reasons.

The Bhima Koregaon violence on January 1, 2018, during the bicentenary celebrations, resulted in one fatality and multiple injuries. Subsequently, several activists were arrested under allegations of having ties to Maoists, purportedly linked to inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad meeting on December 31, 2017.

Navlakha's grant of bail marks the seventh such instance in the Bhima Koregaon case, following Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Anand Teltumbde, Vernon Gonsalves, and Arun Ferreira. While Varavara Rao secured bail on medical grounds, Mahesh Raut awaits release as the stay on his bail order persists.

Navlakha's release is a momentary respite amidst the ongoing legal intricacies. The NIA remains adamant in its oppositions so far to Navlakha's bail, reiterating allegations of his involvement in a movement facilitating logistics for rural Naxal activities.


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