New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday gave National Investigation Agency (NIA) 24 hours to shift Gautam Navlakha — one of the accused in 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence case — from Kaloja Jail in Navi Mumbai to place him under the house arrest and also passed a couple of more direction to further seal the premises to rule out even any unattended exit.
The orders issued on Friday included sealing of the kitchen door leading to the exit in the northern end of the B.T. Ranadive Smruti Bhavan where Navlakha will be put under house arrest and locking of grills of the hall and putting an additional CCTV camera on the kitchen door leading to the second exit.
Rejecting NIA’s application seeking the vacation of November 10 and September 29 order of the top court, a bench comprising Justice K.M. Joseph and Justice Hrishikesh Roy said that they are getting an impression that the investigating agency was looking for alibis to get over its order to put Navlakha under house arrest.
“You are delaying enforcing of the order. We can see it. This is the impression we are getting”, the bench said and, in a poser, asked, “With an entire police force, might of the state, you cannot keep an eye on a 70 year-old ailing man under house arrest.”
The court in its order said, “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 in its order.
Having said this, the bench asked both the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju to tell what more safeguards they wanted in the premises where Navlakha will be placed under house arrest.
As Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that Navlakha had suppressed the information and misled the court, and the premises he suggested to be placed under house arrest belonged to the Communist Party of India, Justice Joseph said that the Communist Party of India is a recognised political party.
Telling the bench that Navlakha was “not entitled to the benefit of house arrest”, Solicitor General Mehta referring to Article 14 of the constitution said, “The message that goes out is that under Article 14 all are equal, but some are more equal.”
As ASG Raju hammered the point that Navlakha did not disclose that his brother-in-law was a senior doctor and the head of a department in Jaslok Hospital, and had suppressed the information, misleading the court, senior advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan appearing for Navlakha said that he (Navlakha) had told the Bombay High Court that his sister Mridula Kothari had worked in Jaslok Hospital and it would be easier for him get medically examined there.
Ramakrishnan said that the case before the top court is against the order of Bombay High Court rejecting his plea for house arrest and all the material is before the top court.
ASG Raju again said but Navlakha had not disclosed that his brother-in-law Dr. Kothari was a senior doctor and a head of department in Jaslok Hospital.
Telling ASG Raju that the NIA officials and lawyers assisting him should have told him about this (disclosure before the High Court by Navlahka), Justice Joseph said, “If we feel you are trying to point to this to overcome the order, we will take a serious view.”
Justice Hrishikesh Roy reminded ASG Raju that the original prayer of Navlakha was to put him under house arrest at his sister Mridula Kothari’s house and even in the case B.T. Ranadive Smruti Bhavan, he (Navlakha) was to be shifted there after evaluation by NIA and the Maharashtra government.
The NIA in its application had sought vacation of the November 10 house arrest order and September 29 order directing Superintendent of Taloja Jail to take Navlakha to Jaslok Hospital for the examination and treatment of his multiple ailments.
The court by its September 29 had said that during his stay in the hospital, Navlakha will be accompanied by his sister Mridula Kothari and partner Sahba Husain.
Seeking the vacation of two orders, NIA had urged the court to dismiss Navlakha’s plea with an exemplary cost.
The top court on November 10 had ordered that Gautam Navlakha be shifted from Taloja Jail in Navi Mumbai and placed under house arrest for a month considering his old age and multiple ailments that require a caretaker to attend.
Maharashtra government/NIA, the court had ordered would carry out necessary evaluation of the place where Navlakha will be kept under house arrest. It had further said that after evaluation, Navlakha shall be placed under house arrest within 48 hours. The court had saddled Navlakha with stringent conditions asking him to adhere to them scrupulously and making it clear any breach of conditions would result in the cancellation of the facility of house arrest. Navlakha is among the 16 alleged Maoist activists against whom the NIA filed a charge-sheet on October 9, 2020. Others are Mumbai’s Anand
Teltumbde, Hany Babu, an associate professor of Delhi, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor of Pune, Jyoti Jagtap of Kondhawa, Milind Teltumbde of Yavatmal and Stan Swamy of Ranchi. The 80-year-old priest Swamy was nabbed from his home in Ranchi only two days ago before filing the charge-sheet.
Anand Teltumbde, a professor who normally resides in Goa, was one of the conveners of the Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan and he was present at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, 31.12.2017 where the Elgar Parishad programme was organised. NIA allegedly recovered incriminating documents revealing his deep involvement with CPI (Maoist) activities.