THE BOMBAY High Court on Friday dismissed a petition filed by activist Gautam Navlakha, seeking the quashing of the FIR lodged against him by the Pune Police, in connection with the Elgaar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon violence.
The court, while dismissing the petition, said that it was satisfied that the investigating agency has material to connect the petitioner in the crime. It, however, granted protection from arrest to Navlakha for three weeks.
“Having considered the documents referred to above and submitted for our perusal by the learned APP (additional public prosecutor) in a sealed envelope, we are satisfied that the investigating agency has material to connect the petitioner in the subject crime. The investigation is still in progress,” a division bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice Bharati Dangre said.
The court also noted that the investigating agency needed to be given time to unearth evidence against the petitioner. “Considering the nature and magnitude of the conspiracy, in our opinion, the investigating agency is required to be given sufficient time to unearth the evidence against the petitioner (Navlakha), especially when the scope of investigation is not restricted to Bhima-Koregoan incident but activities leading to the incident and subsequent activities,” it said.
On the request Navlakha’s advocate Yug Chaudhry, the bench stayed the order for three weeks so that they can approach the Supreme Court against the order.
In his petition, Navlakha has stated that he had been a human rights activist for decades and his outspoken views on political issues are well within the constitutional guarantee of free speech. He also claimed that he was called upon by the state to assist in securing the release of officials abducted by left-wing extremists in 2011 and had been an open critic of left-wing extremist violence.
Chaudhry argued before the bench that the FIR lodged against Navlakha does not disclose any offence under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, much less any such involvement in any other offence. He added that Navlakha had nothing to do with either the Elgar Parishad or the organisation of the event on December 31, 2017, either as a member of the Parishad or as a participant in the event.
Chaudhry told the court: “Navlakha is one of the public-spirited interlocutor who has not minced his words in criticising extremist violence. The investigating agency is using the criminal law to target legitimate political activity.”
Additional Public Prosecutor Aruna Pai, while opposing the petition, relied upon the material recovered from the petitioner and other co-accused, and submitted that Navlakha is an active member of banned terrorist organisation Communist Party of India (Moist).
“The organisation, by no stretch of imagination, can ever be considered representing the dissenting opinion or as an organisation professing a different ideology,” Pai said.