The Supreme Court on October 4 extended the interim protection from arrest granted by the Bombay High Court to civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha in the Bhima Koregaon violence case till October 15.
The apex court directed the Maharashtra government to place before it the material collected during the ongoing investigation against Navlakha in connection with the case.
While agreeing to hear Navlakha's plea challenging the Bombay HC order refusing to quash the FIR lodged against him, a bench of justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta said that it would hear the arguments on October 15.
Five Judges Recuse From Case
A day before the hearing, Justice S Ravindra Bhat on Thursday became the fifth apex court judge to recuse himself from hearing a plea filed by Navlakha.
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.
Also read: What Has Happened a Year After Bhima Koregaon Arrests?
When the matter came up for hearing on Thursday before a bench comprising justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and S Ravindra Bhat, justice Bhat recused himself from hearing the case. When the bench was informed by Navlakha's counsel that the three week protection given to him by the Bombay High Court was expiring on Friday, the bench said his petition would be heard by another bench tomorrow.
The Maharashtra government had earlier filed a caveat in the matter seeking to be heard before any orders are passed. On September 13, the HC 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.
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.
Also read: Bhima Koregaon: SC Sets Aside Bombay HC Order That Refused More Time to File Charge-sheet
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.