The Delhi High Court on Friday, 22 May, issued notice in the interim bail plea filed by human rights activist Gautam Navlakha, who is in the custody of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with his alleged role in the Bhima Koregaon case.
Justice Anup J Bhambhani has directed the NIA to respond to the bail plea by the next date of hearing, which has been set as 27 May.
Navlakha is one of the 11 prominent activists, academics and lawyers who have been accused of Naxal links, and instigating the violence that took place in Bhima Koregaon on 1 January 2018. They were booked by the Pune Police under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, which imposes extremely strict conditions for grant of bail.
In January, the case was transferred to the NIA, after the newly elected state government in Maharashtra decided to review it.
Navlakha had been arrested by the Pune Police from his home in Delhi, in August 2018, but the Delhi High Court at the time had set aside their transit remand order. He had been granted interim protection from arrest till April this year, when the Supreme Court refused to extend the same.
Following the apex court’s instructions, Navlakha as well as activist and scholar Anand Teltumbde had surrendered to the NIA in April, and Navlakha has been lodged in Tihar jail since then.
He has approached the Delhi High Court for interim bail in relation to the coronavirus crisis.
As a 67-year-old with health problems including colonic polyposes, chronic gastritis, who has also been diagnosed with high blood pressure while in the NIA’s custody, Navlakha’s lawyers argue that he is vulnerable to COVID-19, especially in the crowded environment of a prison.
He also noted the Supreme Court’s order directing high powered committees to be set up in states to take measures for decongestion of jails in light of the coronavirus crisis, and the observations of some of the high powered committees which had recommended interim bail for prisoners above the age of 60, irrespective of the legislation they have been charged under.
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