‘He is 70 in Overcrowded Prison’: SC Orders to Shift Navlakha to Hospital

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NEW DELHI – The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Taloja jail Superintendent to immediately shift Gautam Navlakha, jailed in Bhima-Koregaon case, to Mumbai’s Jaslok hospital for treatment.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Navlakha, submitted that his client is suffering from ailments.

A bench of Justices K.M. Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy told the Centre’s counsel: “He is 70 years and an undertrial in an overcrowded prison… Nature of crime is serious, but it is alleged not proved…. You want the man to die in jail?”

Centre’s counsel replied “No, not all” and submitted that a letter of adjournment was circulated. The bench sought the presence of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and passed over the matter.

After Mehta’s arrival in the court, Justice Joseph told him: “Your humaneness is put to test.” He replied: “My concern for national integration is put to test”, and added that the petitioner is challenging an April order now, therefore he cannot say the other side should not get an opportunity to file a reply.

Mehta, while opposing Navlakha’s house arrest plea, vehemently argued that Navlakha has skin allergy, dental problems, and colonoscopy which are not serious ailments to shift him to house arrest.

He said he did not press the prayer for colonoscopy before the trial court and added that he can visit a dental surgeon of his choice daily. He added that if Navlakha has health problems, then he should be in a hospital and not at his sister’s house.

Sibal replied that his client is over 70 years old and could he be a threat? Mehta pointed out at the possibility of destruction of evidence, if Navlakha’s house arrest is allowed and added that he is facing charges under the UAPA for supporting Maoist activities. “This is an abuse of the process of law. I appeal to your lordships’ conscience,” said Mehta.

After hearing detailed arguments, the top court said the petitioner is an undertrial, and that the right of an undertrial trial to receive medical attention would be a fundamental right, and the petitioner should be taken immediately for a thorough medical check-up.

The top court directed the Superintendent of Taloja Jail to take Navlakha to Mumbai’s Jaslok hospital for treatment and required medical check-up and clarified that he remains in police custody.

The top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing in October.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Maharashtra government on a plea by Navlakha seeking to be placed under house arrest, rather than judicial custody in the Bhima Koregaon case.

It was informed that there are allegations about commission of offences covered under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against Navlakha, but none of those are made out against him.

Navlakha’s counsel urged that he can be put under house arrest either in Mumbai or in Delhi. Navlakha moved the apex court challenging Bombay High Court, judgment passed in April, dismissing his plea to be transferred from Taloja Prison and placed under house arrest instead. In August 2018, he was arrested and initially placed under house arrest. In April 2020, after an apex court order, he was moved to Taloja Central Prison. -IANS

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