The Supreme Court Tuesday sought response from civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha, who has been charged under the UAPA in the Elgaar Parishad Case, on National Investigative Agency’s (NIAs) plea challenging the Delhi High Court order seeking records of judicial proceedings before special courts in the national capital and Mumbai. The apex court also stayed the proceedings before the Delhi High Court till further orders.
Conducting the hearing through video conferencing, a bench of Justices Arun Mishra, S A Nazeer and Indira Banerjee issued notice to Navlakha and posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.
“Issue notice. Until further orders, the proceedings before the High Court shall remain stayed. List after fifteen days,” the bench said in its order.
Navlakha was on May 26 transferred to Mumbai on Tuesday, a day before his interim bail application was listed for hearing. In his plea, Navlakha had sought interim bail on the ground that due to his “advanced age”, he is at “higher risk” of being infected by Covid-19 in jail.
The bench took note of the submission of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the high court order of May 27, seeking production of the records of trial court was patently without jurisdiction.
In its plea, the NIA alleged that the Delhi High Court erroneously continues to entertain the interim bail application of an accused, who is charged by an authority outside its territorial jurisdiction and is in judicial custody via a valid jurisdictional remand order passed by a special NIA judge, Mumbai (which is outside the territorial jurisdiction of the Delhi High Court).
It sought setting aside of the May 27 order of the high court and claimed that the top court had already adjudicated the issue of medical health of Navlakha and declined him the relief by its order on April 8.
The NIA has also questioned the maintainability of the Navlakha’s bail plea before the high court and pointed out that the accused is being prosecuted for offences under IPC and UAPA and thus the bail application would lie before the special court under the NIA Act.
It pointed out that the Delhi High Court also lacked the territorial jurisdiction to pass directions as the FIR by NIA pertaining to the Bhima Koregaon case was registered on January 24 at Mumbai.
On May 27, Delhi High Court has said that the NIA showed “inexplicable, frantic hurry” in moving Navlakha from Delhi to Mumbai. Navlakha had surrendered before the NIA on April 14 in pursuance to the apex court’s direction and was lodged in Tihar jail.
“While ordinarily this court would not see too much cause for hurry in this case, in view of the inexplicable, frantic hurry shown by the NIA in moving the applicant from Delhi to Mumbai while this matter was pending and the NIA had itself sought time to file status report, this court does get a sense that all proceedings in this jurisdiction would be rendered utterly infructuous if an element of urgency is not brought to bear on the present proceedings,” the high court had observed.
The court said, “…the NIA has acted in unseemly haste to instead remove the applicant out of the very jurisdiction of this court; and, if the applicant is right, without even informing the Special Judge (NIA), Mumbai or the Special Judge (NIA), Delhi of the pendency of the present proceedings.”
Navlakha had told the court that while the interim bail plea was pending, on May 23, NIA has requested the special judge (NIA) Delhi to extend his judicial custody till June 22 and on May 24, a Sunday, an application was filed by the agency before Special Judge (NIA), Mumbai seeking his production warrants.
He had said warrants were issued for his production before the Special Judge (NIA), Mumbai and an application was also moved before concerned Jail Superintendent at Tihar Jail on May 25, being a Gazetted holiday for EID, seeking a transit order to shift Navlakha from Delhi to Mumbai.
The high court directed the Investigating Officer (IO) to file before it an affidavit on the lines of response given by him and a copy of the proceedings relating to production warrants by the Mumbai court.
Navlakha was arrested in August 2018 by the Pune Police from his residence in Delhi following the violence at Koregaon Bhima village in Pune district on January 1, 2018. The transit remand order was, however, set aside by the Delhi High Court.
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