NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court declined the plea of NIA seeking to vacate the order allowing the shifting of Gautam Navlakha, accused in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon case, to house arrest from the Taloja prison.
A bench of justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy also put certain additional conditions for the house arrest of Navlakha, such as the sealing of the kitchen door leading to the exit and locking of the grills of the hall.
“Application by NIA to vacate the order is dismissed. We are of the view that certain further safeguards need to be engrafted which will be in addition to what we have already ordered,” the bench said.
National Investigation Agency has filed a fresh application seeking to vacate the order allowing the shifting of Navlakha to house arrest from the Taloja prison in Mumbai where he is lodged.
The NIA also said that the medical reports cited by Navlakha, which were relied upon by the court to grant him relief, are biased since they are prepared by Jaslok hospital, where the main doctor, Dr S Kothari, who is his direct brother-in-law.
However, Navlakha through his counsel Nitya Ramakrishnan complained that probe agencies were asked to inspect the premises where Navlakha was to be shifted within 48 hours on November 10 however till date he has not been shifted.
During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for NIA contended that the message which goes is ‘though everyone is equal some are more equal than others’.
“There are more inmates of the same age and medical conditions but they cannot go home but he is not going home even. This is not a review. This order was passed in ignorance of certain facts,” he added.
Additional Solicitor General SV Raju also appearing for NIA said that the location of house arrest is misleading.
The public library where Navlakha wants to stay belongs to the Communist Party of India.
To this Justice, Joseph replied, Communist party is a recognised party of India, what is the issue? Raju further contended that there was the suppression of fact before this court and this was a grave suppression on medical records and then location.
It was said that there was only one exit but it was misleading, the flat has two exits, he added.
Justice Roy then said that Navlakha could not have gone there unless a recce was carried out by the police officers, now it has been done so measures can be taken.
“Because of a series of misleading statements he can not be put under house arrest. It’s impossible to monitor this place. The place is not fit for the person having this ailment,” Raju said.
Senior advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan said they didn’t know how many exit it has. We said it’s a floor above the library. It has been used as a residential unit in the past. It is not used for any political purpose. No member of the public goes to read there. It is a long empty hall with a kitchen and bathroom,” she told the bench.
The lawyer said the connection with Jaslok hospital was known and they had informed the High court.
As the NIA was objecting to the house arrest, Justice Roy said, “SG and ASG saying that we cannot keep a 70 year old ailing man in house confinement with all might of the state!”
Solicitor General replied that Navlakha has ISI links and Jammu and Kashmir terrorist links.
However, the bench declined NIA’s application to recall the house arrest order.
On November 10, the bench in an interim order permitted Navlakha to be placed under house arrest for a period of one month considering his health condition and old age.
The Maharashtra government was asked to carry out a necessary evaluation of the place where Navlakha will be under house arrest, the bench had ordered, adding that after an evaluation he shall be placed under house arrest within 48 hours.
Navlakha had moved the top court requesting that he be placed under house arrest instead of judicial custody in Taloja jail, Maharashtra.
The apex court had imposed several conditions on Navlakha including he shall not use any mobile phone, laptop, communication device or gadget. He shall use the phone to be provided by police personnel on duty. He will be able to use the phone once a day for 10 minutes in the presence of the police.
NIA had vehemently opposed Navlakha’s plea saying his condition has been improved and there was no need to put him under house arrest.
Earlier, the apex court had allowed the Superintendent of Taloja prison in Maharashtra to shift jailed activist Navlakha to Mumbai’s Jaslok hospital for medical checkup and treatment.
It had said that receiving medical treatment is a fundamental right of a prisoner.
70 year old Navlakha had told the bench that he has colon cancer and requires a colonoscopy and also a check-up for skin allergy and dental issues.
Navlakha had moved the top court challenging the April 26 order of the Bombay High Court which had dismissed his plea for house arrest over apprehensions of lack of adequate medical and other basic facilities in Taloja jail near Mumbai where he is currently lodged.
The High Court had said Navlakha’s apprehensions about the lack of medical aid and inadequate basic facilities at the Taloja prison, were “ill-founded”.
Navlakha, one of the several civil liberties activists in the Bhima Koregaon case, has been booked under stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for an alleged conspiracy to topple the government.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had granted bail to 82 year old activist P Varavara Rao in the case. (ANI)