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Mumbai Special Court Declines Gautam Navlakha’s Plea for Default Bail in Elghar Parishad Case

Mumbai Special Court Declines Gautam Navlakha’s Plea for Default Bail in Elghar Parishad Case

A Special Court in Mumbai denied default bail on Sunday, 12 July 2020, to activist Gautam Navlakha who is currently in Taloja jail. The Court also permitted NIA to seek custody of Navlakha for ten days in order to question him in the Bhima Koregaon case. Judge DE Kothalikar has been hearing Navlakha's plea for default bail under Section 167 of the CrPC, since he has been in jail for over 90 days.

In addition to that, Judge Kothalikar accepted the plea of NIA seeking an extension of 90 to 180 days to file charges against Navlakha and Dr. Anand Teltumbde, who was also accused of being part of the Maoist movement and of inciting caste-based violence that took place on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon in speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave a day earlier on 31 December 2017.

In April of this year, 67- year- old Navlakha had surrendered to the National Investigation Agency. He was taken to Tihar jail after being in NIA custody for 10 days. Subsequently, on 24 May (Sunday), NIA moved production warrant applications to the special court, which was allowed. Following this, the jail superintendent moved an application requesting a transit order to transfer Navlakha to Mumbai and was transferred by rail on 26 May. 

On 28 May, the Delhi High Court observed that prima facie the NIA had acted in a rush to transfer Navlakha from Delhi to Mumbai. Currently, eight other accused in the case, namely Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao, Surendra Gadling, Anand Teltumbde, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, Arun Ferreira and Sudhir Dhawale, are all in Taloja. 

Whereas Sudha Bharadwaj and Shoma Sen are kept at Byculla. Navlakha is actually being kept at a quarantine facility in Taloja after being taken back from Delhi. Advocate Ragini Ahuja, on behalf of Navlakha, stated that the investigating agency has failed to submit its complaint against Navlakha within 90 days. Whereas, appearing on behalf of the NIA, ASG Anil Singh argued that the application for default bail was not maintain. 

Finally, the Court accepted the contentions of NIA and permitted Navlakha to be kept in jail, denying him bail. The special court in Mumbai has consistently refused bail to all accused who have been charged with various offences under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which was amended last year. Poet Varavara Rao was refused bail for the second time on June 26, and reports of Rao's 81-year-old failing health surfaced yesterday as his relatives reported that he looked delirious and spoke of his parent's death and funeral. 

Section 167 of the Code allows that a person may be held in the custody of the police for a period of 15 days on the orders of a magistrate. A judicial magistrate may remand a person to any form of custody extending up to 15 days and an executive magistrate may order for a period of custody extending up to 7 days. 

A person may be held in the custody of the police or in judicial custody. Police custody may extend only up to a period of 15 days from the date custody begins but judicial custody may extend to a period of 90 days for a crime which entails a punishment of death, life imprisonment or period of imprisonment exceeding 10 years and 60 days for all other crimes if the magistrate is convinced that sufficient reasons exists, following which the accused or suspect must be released on bail.

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