Keeping Navlakha under house arrest in Elgar Parishad case will set wrong precedent: SC

SC directed the NIA to apprise it of his current medical condition and the stage of the trial. Navlakha is under house arrest at a public library in Mumbai since November 2022.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court said on Friday keeping activist Gautam Navlakha under house arrest in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist link case further will set a "wrong precedent" and directed the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to apprise it of his current medical condition and the stage of trial.

A bench of Justices M M Sundresh and J B Pardiwala asked Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, appearing for the NIA, to file an affidavit within four weeks.

Navlakha is under house arrest at a public library in Mumbai since November 2022.

"Prima facie we have our reservations, but a lengthy order has been passed. Without going into the merits of the case, this might set a wrong precedent. You may have 100 per cent merit, not saying anything about that. But to facilitate this, and do this for one person...file an affidavit. It should include the present condition of this person and the stage of the trial," the bench observed orally.

As the hearing began, the lawyer appearing for Navlakha said the apex court had directed the NIA to file its reply in April on the activist's plea seeking a change of accommodation but the federal anti-terror agency has not submitted its response to date.

Senior advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan, appearing for Navlakha, told the bench that the Bombay High Court is scheduled to hear the activist's bail plea and sought time.

Raju told the bench the order for placing Navlakha under house arrest is an unusual order which is probably the first of its kind.

"He obtained the house order on grounds of his sickness. He said one lady would stay with him. But she isn't staying most of the time," Raju said, insisting the house arrest order is unwarranted.

The ASG said Navlakha owes money to the State and urged the bench to direct them to pay at least Rs 20 lakh towards expenses for making available police personnel for his security.

Ramakrishnan submitted that NIA's own medical examination confirms Navlakha's ailment.

While ordering his house arrest on November 10 last year, the apex court had directed Navlakha to deposit Rs 2.4 lakh towards the expenses to be borne by the state for deploying police personnel to effectively place him under house arrest.

At the last hearing, the apex court had directed Navlakha to deposit another Rs 8 lakh as expenses for providing police personnel for his security.

On November 10, 2022, the top court allowed Navlakha, who was then lodged in Navi Mumbai's Taloja prison in connection with the case, to be placed under house arrest owing to his deteriorating health.

Noting that the activist has been in custody since April 14, 2020, and prima facie there is no reason to reject his medical report, it had said Navlakha does not have any criminal background except for this case and even the government of India had appointed him as an interlocutor to hold talks with Maoists.

Putting a number of conditions, including a deposit of Rs 2.4 lakh as security expenses, the top court had said the order to place the 70-year-old activist under house arrest for a month in Mumbai should be implemented within 48 hours.

Since the November 10, 2022 order, the top court has extended his house arrest several times.

The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which police claim triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial on the outskirts of the city.

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