SC seeks activist Navlakha's reply on NIA plea against HC order in Bhima Koregaon case

New Delhi, Jun 2 (PTI) The Supreme Court Tuesday sought response from civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha on NIA's plea challenging the Delhi High Court order seeking records of judicial proceedings before special courts in the national capital and Mumbai in the Bhima Koregaon case.

The top court also stayed the proceedings before the Delhi High Court till further orders.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, S A Nazeer and Indira Banerjee, conducting the hearing through video conferencing, issued notice to Navlakha who has been recently taken to Mumbai from Delhi’s Tihar Jail. The court posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.

“Issue notice. Until further orders, the proceedings before the High Court shall remain stayed. List after fifteen days,” the bench said in its order.

The bench took note of the submission of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the high court order of May 27, seeking production of the records of trial court was patently without jurisdiction.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) in its plea alleged that the high court in its order erroneously continues to entertain the interim bail application of an accused, who is charged by an authority outside its territorial jurisdiction and is in judicial custody vide a valid jurisdictional remand order passed by special judge (NIA) Mumbai (which is outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Delhi High Court).

It sought setting aside of the May 27 order of the high court and claimed that the top court had already adjudicated the issue of medical health of Navlakha and declined him the relief by its order on April 8.

The probe agency has also questioned the maintainability of the Navlakha’s bail plea before the high court and pointed out that the accused is being prosecuted for offences under IPC and UAPA and thus the bail application would lie before the special court under the NIA Act.

It pointed out that the Delhi High Court also lacked the territorial jurisdiction to pass directions as the FIR by NIA pertaining to the Bhima Koregaon case was registered on January 24 at Mumbai.

On May 27, the high court had pulled up the NIA for acting in “unseemly haste” in taking away Navlakha, from the national capital to Mumbai even when his interim bail plea was pending here.

It said there was an evident haste shown by the NIA in moving pleas across Mumbai and Delhi over weekends and Gazetted holidays (Eid) and obtaining orders by e-mail, and “whisking away” Navlakha to Mumbai, which has rendered these proceedings infructuous.

Navlakha, who had surrendered before the NIA on April 14 in pursuance to the apex court's direction and was lodged in Tihar jail, was taken to Mumbai by train on May 26.

“While ordinarily this court would not see too much cause for hurry in this case, in view of the inexplicable, frantic hurry shown by the NIA in moving the applicant from Delhi to Mumbai while this matter was pending and the NIA had itself sought time to file status report, this court does get a sense that all proceedings in this jurisdiction would be rendered utterly infructuous if an element of of urgency is not brought to bear on the present proceedings,” the high court had said.

The high court had noted that on the last date it had granted adequate time to the NIA to file its status report in response to the interim bail plea and the agency has filed an affidavit opposing the plea.

It had earlier sought response of the NIA on a plea by 67-year-old Navlakha who had said that given his advanced age, he was vulnerable to catching coronavirus or other infections, especially in a crowded environment like prison.

Navlakha had told the court that while the interim bail plea was pending, on May 23, NIA has requested the special judge (NIA) Delhi to extend his judicial custody till June 22 and on May 24, a Sunday, an application was filed by the agency before Special Judge (NIA), Mumbai seeking his production warrants.

He had said warrants were issued for his production before the Special Judge (NIA), Mumbai and an application was also moved before concerned Jail Superintendent at Tihar Jail on May 25, being a Gazetted holiday for EID, seeking a transit order to shift Navlakha from Delhi to Mumbai.

The high court directed the Investigating Officer (IO) to file before it an affidavit on the lines of response given by him and a copy of the proceedings relating to production warrants by the Mumbai court.

Tihar Jail Superintendent was also directed to provide a copy of the last medical status report of Navlakha and listed the matter for June 3.

In August 2018, Navlakha was arrested by the Pune Police from his Delhi residence following the violence at Koregaon Bhima village in Pune district on January 1, 2018. The transit remand order was, however, set aside by the Delhi High Court. PTI MNL ABA SJK SA