The Supreme Court Wednesday granted a weeks time to civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha to surrender to prison authorities in the Elgar Parishad case, stating this as the last opportunity with no further extension.
“It would have been appropriate for the accused to surrender as the courts are open and not totally closed. However, since the petitioners have enjoyed the protection for long, by way of last opportunity, we extend the time granted to surrender for one week,” the order stated.
Civil rights activists Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde had filed a plea seeking more time to surrender to prison authorities in the Elgar Parishad case citing the coronavirus pandemic. Going to jail at the time of the COVID-19 virus is “virtually a death sentence”, they had said.
The duo’s lawyers argued that both the accused are above the age of 65 and going to prison at this time is not safe for them in wake of the spread of the pandemic. Opposing the plea, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta called it a mechanism to buy time and that both the accused are facing serious charges. A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra reserved the order after listeing to arguments from both the sides.
Navlakha and Teltumdbe are charged under various provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and are accused of being part of the Elgar Parishad event held in Pune on December 31, 2017.
Earlier, the apex court, while dismissing the anticipatory bail pleas of Navlakha and Teltumbde, had said their petitions cannot be maintained in view of the bar contained in 43D(4) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967. A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M R Shah, however, turned down the agency’s plea that they should not be given any further time to surrender, and allowed them three weeks for this. The court asked the duo to surrender their passports forthwith.
The two had moved the apex court after a single-judge bench of Bombay High Court rejected their pleas for anticipatory bail.
Several activists, including Navlakha and Teltumbde, were booked by Pune Police for their alleged Maoist links and other charges following the violence at Koregaon Bhima village near Pune on January 1, 2018. The accused deny the allegations.