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SC Rejects NIA Plea, Orders Navlakha to be Placed Under House Arrest Within 24 Hours

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected the NIA's application and ordered social activist Gautam Navlakha to be put under house arrest within 24 hours after shifting him from Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai.

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected the NIA's application and ordered social activist Gautam Navlakha to be put under house arrest within 24 hours after shifting him from Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai.

Navlakha is lodged in jail in connection with the Elgar Parishad-Maoist link case. 

The anti-terror probe agency had sought recall of the SC order of November 10 for placing Navlakha under house arrest, citing his links to Maoists and Pakistan's ISI.

The bench of Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy, however, ordered some additional security measures to be put in place where Navlakha will be kept.

A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud on Thursday took note of the submissions of senior lawyer Nitya Ramakrishnan, appearing for Navlakha, that the apex court’s November 10 direction to shift him from Navi Mumbai's Taloja prison and place him under house arrest owing to his worsening health has not been complied with so far.

Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for the NIA, had said the accused, instead of giving the address of his house, has preferred the address of "the library-cum-office of the Communist Party".

“The Communist Party, in any case, is not a banned organisation,” Ramakrishnan said, seeking implementation of the apex court order.

Meanwhile, the anti-terror probe agency moved the SC seeking vacation of its order for house arrest, saying Navlakha being a charge-sheeted accused in a case involving a threat to national security and integrity, does not deserve any extra leeway.

"From the investigation carried out, it is established that the petitioner delivered speeches at different forums and programmes on many issues related to the Kashmiri separatist movement and Maoist movement and supported it. 

"During scrutiny of the documents seized from the petitioner it is evident that they are related to CPI (Maoist) strategic documents, documents in connection with the formation of the CPI (Maoist) party, important press releases of CPI (Maoist) party, critical secret communications with underground senior leaders of the party which establishes his deep involvement in the activities of CPI (Maoist) party," the agency said in its plea. 

Alleging that Navlakha's medical report of Jaslok hospital is "vitiated", the agency said proper treatment has been given to him whenever required, and his condition is manageable within the premises of Taloja central jail.

"It is submitted that it is clear from the publicly available record that Dr. S. Kothari has been associated with Jaslok Hospital since 1979 i.e. about 43 years. It is not unreasonable to assume that the said doctor, being on a very senior position in the said hospital, would yield considerable influence in the said hospital. 

"It is submitted that considering the fact that a senior doctor of the said hospital is directly related to the petitioner and was a part of the (team) preparing medical report of the petitioner, that a clear case of personal bias vitiates the said report has been made out by the respondent," it said.

The law officer, referring to some facts of the case, said both the applications needed to be heard together on Friday. The submissions were allowed. 

On November 15, the top court had cleared the hurdle for the release of Navlakha from Navi Mumbai's Taloja prison by waiving the requirement of a solvency certificate for availing the benefit of house arrest.     

Prior to this, the top court had on November 10 allowed the 70-year-old Navlakha to be placed under house arrest owing to his deteriorating health.

While ordering that Navlakha be placed under house arrest, the bench comprising Justice K M Joseph and Justice Hrishikesh Roy had noted that the activist has been in custody since April 14, 2020, and prima facie there was no reason to reject his medical report.

It had said that Navlakha does not have any criminal background except for the present case and even the Government of India had appointed him as interlocutor to hold talks with Maoists.

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