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HC quashes special court’s ‘cryptic’ order rejecting Navlakha’s bail plea

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Thursday quashed a “cryptic” order of a special court rejecting bail to activist Gautam Navlakha, an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, and directed the special judge to rehear his bail plea.

A division bench of Justices A S Gadkari and P D Naik noted that the special court’s order did not contain an analysis of the evidence relied upon by the prosecution, as it directed the special judge to conclude the fresh hearing within 4 weeks.

The 70-year-old social activist had moved HC challenging the September 5, 2022 order under the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act refusing him bail on merits.

The high court briefly heard the arguments put forth by Navlakha’s counsel Yug Chaudhary this week but opined that the reasoning in the order of the special court was “cryptic” and said it didn’t get the benefit of a reasoned order.

“No reason of whatever nature is given. Trial court has not given reasoning as required under section 43D(5) of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) while rejecting bail,” the bench said on Thursday.

The HC said the bail plea requires a fresh hearing by the special court and sent it back to the latter.

“The special judge is requested to conclude within 4 weeks without being influenced from September 5 order and this order of today. It is made clear that this court has not made any opinion on merits,” HC said.

Navlakha was arrested in August 2018 but was initially placed under house arrest.

He was later moved to the Taloja Central Prison near Mumbai in April 2020 after a Supreme Court order.

However, on November 10 last year, the Supreme Court allowed his plea to be shifted back to house arrest for a month. This was extended by another month on December 13.

He is presently residing in Navi Mumbai in Maharashtra’s Thane district.

The NIA opposed Navlakha’s bail plea by claiming that he had been introduced to a Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) General for his “recruitment”. This shows his “nexus” with the spy organisation, said the federal agency.

The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017 which the police claim triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city.

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