Bhima Koregaon: Gautam Navlakha seeks pre-arrest bail from Pune Court, says assisted State against Maoists

Shruti Mahajan November 8 2019

A Pune Court yesterday reserved its judgment in the plea for pre-arrest bail filed by activist Gautam Navlakha in relation to the Bhima Koregaon case.

The Additional Sessions Judge at Pune, SR Navandar, yesterday heard the arguments advanced by Navlakha for pre-arrest bail and the Pune Police and is likely to deliver judgment on November 12.

Navlakha had moved the Pune Court on November 5, one day after the Bombay High Court directed him to approach the Special Court for this relief. Earlier, in a plea filed by Navlakha seeking quashing of the FIR against him in the case, the Supreme Court had granted him liberty to approach the appropriate forum seeking pre-arrest bail while refusing to decline the plea for quashing. That order of the Supreme court ultimately led to the filing of this application.

In seeking pre-arrest bail, Navlakha has contended that in over a year, the Pune Police has not brought forth any connection between him and the incident or any plan for disruption as alleged by the Police. There is merely an allegation of a suspicion that Navlakha is acquainted with certain alleged members of the banned organization, the CPI (Maoist). In his application, it is submitted that,

"At any rate, the nature of association to be penal requires complicity in the forbidden violent activity of any such group which is shown to be absent by the prosecution’s own material."

Navlakha has had a role to play in assisting the State in rescuing officials abducted by Maoists, the application states. Not only has he condemned left-wing violence but also negotiated on behalf of the State in the rescue operation for abducted officials, the application states.

"It is because of his legitimate engagement with such issues that the State itself had called upon him to negotiate the release of those abducted by left-wing extremists. Thus, his engagement with all kinds of fringe elements in politics has an intellectual, academic and lawful context, which must be brought to bear upon processes."

Navlakha has also contested the claims made by the Pune Police as regards the recovery of certain documents and letters allegedly recovered from his computer. These documents and letters have been spoken about by the State of Maharashtra and the Pune Police at various fora. The application submits,

"Even assuming that the Pune Police should not be hampered in investigating the case, the liberty of the Applicant ought to be protected, in view of the fact that the most that the Pune Police has brought out in over a year are a couple of documents attributed to his computer, and random perception of other accused, in which he has no role, and which anyway which show no such sinister or violent activity."

While praying for pre-arrest bail, Navlakha has specified that he does not seek to interdict the investigation and has offered full cooperation and has prayed for his submission to be taken on record that he is willing to appear for investigation whenever sought by the investigating agency. The application further adds,

"The Applicant has always been available for any questioning or clarification, but the Pune police has not sought the same at any point."

The Court is likely to pronounce its order on the same on November 12.

In a connected matter, the Court of Additional Sessions Judge SR Navandar yesterday rejected the bail plea filed by six other accused in the Bhima Koregaon case - Varavara Rao, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen and Sudhir Dhawale.