Activist Gautam Navlakha Released From Jail, To Be Under House Arrest

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Gautam Navlakha has been in jail since April 2020 in the Koregaon-Bhima case.

70-year-old activist Gautam Navlakha, jailed since 2020 in the Koregaon-Bhima case, was released today from Navi Mumbai’s Taloja Central Jail in line with the Supreme Court order to keep him under house arrest. Following his appeal on medical grounds, the court had reiterated its order yesterday, rejecting the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) argument that he had “deliberately misled” the court regarding his health.

Mr Navlakha, who will stay at a house in Navi Mumbai, has been handed over to the police. The NIA had objected to his team’s proposal that he stay at a CPM office.

The activist has been in jail since April 2020 in a case related to violence at Maharashtra’s Koregaon-Bhima on January 1. The violence, in which one person died, took place a day after alleged inflammatory speeches were delivered at an Elgar Parishad conclave.

The Pune police had claimed the conclave was backed by Maoists.
Last week, the top court had ordered that Mr Navlakha be shifted to house arrest within 48 hours. But the release was delayed, to which the court reacted sharply at a hearing yesterday, accusing the NIA of delaying tactics.

The anti-terror agency had asked the top court to revise its decision, raising concern about safety in view of Mr Navlakha’s alleged “terror links”. The court had questioned if the police “can’t keep a watch on an ailing 70-year-old man?”

When the NIA sought time till Monday, Justice KM Joseph shot back, “You think we cannot see through attempts to delay the case? For what purpose will we post on Monday? We are passing an order”.

In July last year, 84-year-old priest-activist Stan Swamy – also arrested in the Elgar Parishad case under an anti-terror law — had died in jail, waiting for bail. A patient of Parkinson’s disease, his last days were marked by legal battles over the smallest necessities, including a sipping cup.

Before his death, he had told the Bombay High Court that his health had consistently declined at the Taloja prison and if he was not granted interim bail, he “would die soon”. The NIA had argued that there was no “conclusive proof” of his medical ailments.

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