Delhi HC ends house arrest of activist Gautam Navlakha

The Delhi High Court Monday allowed Gautam Navlakha, one of the five rights activists arrested in connection with Koregaon-Bhima case, to be freed from house arrest. PTI file photo

The Delhi High Court on Monday allowed Gautam Navlakha, one of the five rights-activists arrested in connection with Bhima-Koregaon case, to be freed from house arrest.

The high court granted him the relief saying that the Supreme Court last week had given him the liberty to approach the appropriate forum within four weeks to seek further recourse, which he has availed.

The high court also quashed the trial court's transit remand order which he had challenged before the matter was taken to the apex court.

Navlakha's detention has exceeded 24 hours which was "untenable", the high court said.

A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel set aside the August 28 order of chief metropolitan magistrate granting transit remand of Navlakha saying there was non-compliance of basic provisions of the Constitution and the CrPC which were mandatory in nature.

The bench said the trial court order was unsustainable in law.

"In view of Section 56 read with Section 57 of the CrPC and absence of remand order of the CMM, the detention of the petitioner has clearly exceeded 24 hours which is untenable in law. Consequently the house arrest of the petitioner comes to an end now," the court said.

It made it clear that this order will not preclude the state of Maharashtra from proceeding further.

When the counsel for Maharashtra government sought the court to extend Navlakha's house arrest by two more days as the apex court has also extended it by four weeks, the bench said, the counsel has overlooked that the top court has passed this order to enable the activist to avail appropriate legal remedy.

The high court allowed the petition filed on behalf of Navlakha challenging his arrest and the transit remand order of the trial court.

Navlakha was arrested from the national capital on August 28. The other four activists were arrested from different parts of the country.

The Maharashtra police had arrested the activists on August 28 in connection with an FIR lodged following a conclave— 'Elgaar Parishad'— held on December 31 last year that had allegedly triggered violence later at Bhima-Koregaon village in the state.

The five activists— Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha— were put under house arrest on August 29 following an apex court order on the plea by historian Romila Thapar, economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devaki Jain, sociology professor Satish Deshpande and human rights lawyer Maja Daruwala against the police action.

Prominent Telugu poet Rao was arrested on August 28 from Hyderabad, while activists Gonsalves and Ferreira were nabbed from Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bharadwaj from Faridabad in Haryana and civil liberties activist Navlakha from Delhi

Thanks supporters

Navlakha, whose was under house-arrest for the past over one month, on Monday thanked his supporters for the "spirited fight" for activists, arrested on suspicion of having Maoist links.

Navlakha and four others were arrested by Maharashtra Police on August 28 and they were under house arrest following Supreme Court's intervention.

Last week, the Supreme Court in a majority judgement allowed them four weeks to seek relief from appropriate courts though it refused to set up a Special Investigation Team as urged by petitioners.

"I wish to thank the majority and dissenting Justices of the Supreme Court for their judgment... The public-spirited citizens and lawyers of India for putting up a spirited fight on our behalf, whose memory I will cherish. I am humbled by the solidarity, which crossed borders, rallying in our support," he said in a statement issued soon after the High Court order.

"From Delhi High Court I have won my freedom. It thrills me no end," he said.

Thanking friends and lawyers, he said he did not know if he can ever repay this debt but added that "the period of house arrest, despite the restrictions imposed was put to good use, so I hold no grudge".

He said he cannot forget his co-accused and tens of thousands of other political prisoners in India who remain incarcerated for their "ideological convictions or on account of false charges" filed against them, and wrongful conviction under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

"Fellow accused in the same matter have gone on hunger strike against the maltreatment inside the jails and demanded that they be recognised as political prisoners or prisoners of conscience. Other political prisoners too have time and again sat on hunger strike and demanded the same. Their freedom and their rights are precious to civil liberties and democratic rights movement," Navlakha said.

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Delhi HC ends house arrest of activist Gautam Navlakha

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