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Elgar Parishad Case: After 4 years, activist-journalist Gautam Navlakha gets bail

Originally published: NewsClicks.in on May 14, 2024 by NewsClick Staff (more by NewsClicks.in)  | (Posted May 15, 2024)

Human rights activist and journalist Gautam Navlakha, who was arrested under UAPA for his alleged role in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon/Elgar Parishad case, was granted bail after the Supreme Court lifted the stay of a Bombay High Court on Tuesday, May 14, 2024.

The apex court was hearing an appeal by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) against the Bombay HC’s December 2023 order granting bail to the septuagenarian activist. Navlakha has been under house arrest in Navi Mumbai since November 2022. Before that, he was lodged in Taloja jail after his arrest in April 2020.

Navlakha is a human rights activist and the former secretary of the People’s Union for Democratic Rights or PUDR.

A bench of Justices MM Sundresh and SVN Bhatti refrained from extending the stay as the Bombay High Court order was detailed and also because the trial would take years to complete, said a report in Bar & Bench.

“We are inclined to not extend the stay as High Court order is detailed in granting bail. Trial would take years and years and years for completion. Without going at length into contentions, we will not extend the stay,” the apex court was cited as saying in the report.

The bench also observed that charges are yet to be framed against Navlakha who has been jail for a long period.

The bench has directed Navlakha to pay Rs 20 lakh to NIA toward security expenses during his house arrest.

In 2023, the Bombay HC had granted bail to Navlakha after noting that there was no material to infer that he had committed a ‘terrorist act” under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act or UAPA.

In April 2024, another academic, Nagpur University’s former professor, Shoma Sen, 62, who was arrested on similar charges (alleged Maoist links) was given bail by the SC after spending six years in jail. She was also yet to face trial.

Navlakha is the seventh among the 16 accused in the Bhima Koregaon/Elgar Parishad case to get bail. The other activists, academics, lawyers who got bail are Shoma Sen, Sudha Bhardwaj, Anand Teltumbde, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferriera, and Varavara Rao (on medical grounds). Father Stan Swamy, 84, who was in jail and was ailing, died in judicial custody in 2021.

The case relates to alleged Maoist links and ‘inflammatory’ speeches delivered at the Elgar Parishad conclave held at Shaniwarwada in Pune city on December 31, 2017. The Pune Police claimed that the speeches triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the city’s outskirts.

The Pune Police, also claimed that the conclave was backed by Maoists. Later, the probe in the case, in which more than a dozen activists and academicians were named as accused and arrested. The transferred to the NIA (under the Union Home Ministry) in 2020, reportedly without the permission of the Maharashtra government that was then ruled by the Maha Vikas Aghadi.

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