‘With All Might of the State?’: SC Refuses to Recall Order on Gautam Navlakha’s House Arrest

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The top court told the NIA, that "with all the might of the state, you are not able to keep a 70-year-old ailing man in house confinement".

NEW DELHI — The Supreme Court on Friday declined to recall its order on house arrest of activist Gautam Navlakha, accused in Bhima Koregaon case, despite the NIA claiming that Navlakha had made a series of misleading statements and he wanted to stay at place which has a library of Communist Party of India (CPI).

The top court orally told the NIA, that “with all the might of the state, you are not able to keep a 70-year-old ailing man in house confinement”.

A bench of Justices K.M. Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy said the impression given to the court is that it is difficult to control the activities of a 70-year-old ailing man. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, on his part, submitted before the bench that this court was misled when it was said where he would stay and he wants to stay at a place where there’s a library of the CPI.

At this, Justice Joseph replied: “So what, isn’t CPI a recognised political party?” Mehta said this court was given an impression that it is an independent premises and “if this doesn’t shock the conscience of this court, I don’t know what would”. Justice Joseph then said “No, it doesn’t shock our conscience” and pointed out that it is a political party recognised in the country.

Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, representing the NIA, said the first floor of the premises is also a part of the library and not an independent unit. He said the place chosen by Navlakha for house arrest has more than one exit and it is necessary to seal the other exits on the premises other than the main entrance.

The top court asked the NIA to deploy additional security measures required to secure the first floor of the building and told Navlakha’s counsel to see that these measures are implemented. It ordered that Navlakha should be shifted to the house arrest premises within 24 hours.

During the hearing, the bench remarked: “If with the entire police force you cannot keep a watch on a 70-year-old ailing man, then think about the weakness…please do not say such a thing”. It further made an oral observation, “with all the might of the state, you are not able to keep a 70-year-old ailing man in house confinement”.

On November 10, the top court had allowed Navlakha to be placed under house arrest after considering his deteriorating health and also asked him to provide local surety of Rs 2 lakh by November 14.

The top court allowed the 70-year-old to be placed under house arrest for a month in Mumbai, while imposing a number of conditions. “We would think on a conspectus of the facts that we should allow the petitioner to be placed under house arrest at least to begin with till the next date of hearing from the date on which he is actually placed on house arrest,” said the bench, scheduling the case for next hearing on December 13.

On September 29, the Supreme Court directed the Taloja jail superintendent to immediately shift Navlakha to Mumbai’s Jaslok hospital for treatment.

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 in Maharashtra. — IANS

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