PUDR welcomes bail to civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha

Gautam Navlakha

In the Bhima Koregaon case, with relief PUDR welcomes the Supreme Court order upholding regular bail for Gautam Navlakha, a well-known civil rights activist, author and journalist. The Bombay High Court had granted Navlakha bail on December 19, 2023, but the Court also stayed his release and gave three weeks to the NIA to appeal in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court had extended the stay. On May 14, 2024, the Supreme Court ended the stay on bail, stating that Gautam Navlakha has spent over four years in custody, the charges are yet to be framed, and the trial would take several years to complete. Notably, the Supreme Court ruled that the Bombay High Court order granting bail to Navlakha was detailed on this matter, implying that it was not required to be reviewed. In ruling so, the Supreme Court has upheld the two-judge ruling of the High Court, which had stated that on a perusal of the documents presented, there was no material evidence to infer Gautam Navlakha’s involvement in terrorist acts under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), and that the documents presented against Navlakha are evidence “in the nature of hearsay, and no covert or overt terrorist act has been attributed to him.”  


After Anand Teltumbde, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, and Shoma Sen, Gautam Navlakha is the fifth Bhima Koregaon accused to be granted bail on the ground that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) so far has presented no prime facie material of the involvement of the accused in any terrorist act, contemplative under the UAPA, despite filing a voluminous chargesheet which runs into 20,000 pages long. While these bail orders confirm there is hardly any evidentiary ground to the conspiracy that is Bhima Koregaon, the case has created an entire regime of pre-trial detention under which relief has come to some only after years of incarceration. The others continue to languish in jail. Mahesh Raut, a co-accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, similarly has been held in custody despite the September 2023 grant of bail by the Bombay High Court on the same ground as the others, as the Supreme Court is yet to decide on the appeal against his bail by the NIA. We need to remember the fate of the 84-year-old Father Stan Swamy, accused in the Bhima Koregaon case who died in judicial custody on 5 July 2021, though very much deserving of release from custody. Let this not be the fate of any other of the accused. 

PUDR urges the Supreme Court to put an end to this system of pre-trial detention and release the remaining eight Bhima Koregaon accused. It urges courts granting bail not to negate its own actions by simultaneously granting a stay on their own judgments causing further loss of liberty to those they have found to be wrongfully incarcerated. Courts need to do more to negate the dictum laid out under the regime of UAPA that the process itself is punishment.

Paramjeet Singh and Joseph Mathai

Secretaries, PUDR

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