In a new development in the Bhima-Koregaon case, the Bombay HC on September 13 refused to quash the case lodged against accused Gautam Navlakha in the Bhima-Koregaon case for violence and for having alleged Maoist links. The Bombay HC noted that there is a prima facie substance in the case.
"Considering the magnitude of the case, we feel a thorough investigation is required," a division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre said. It further added, "The case is not without basis and absence of material," reported PTI.
The Bombay HC dismissed the petition filed by Gautam Navlakha seeking to quash the FIR lodged against him by the Pune police in January 2018, after the Elgar Parishad held on December 31, 2017, that had allegedly triggered violence at Bhima-Koregaon in Pune district the next day. The police had also alleged that Gautam Navlakha and others accused in the case had Maoist links and were working towards overthrowing the government.
"The offence is not limited to Koregaon-Bhima violence. There are many more facets to it. Hence, we feel investigation is required," the court said.
After the Bombay HC pronounced its judgment, Navlakha's counsel Yug Chaudhary sought an extension of the interim protection from arrest granted to Navlakha by the High Court after he had filed the petition. The bench agreed and extended the protection from arrest to Navlakha for a period of three weeks to enable him to approach the Supreme Court in an appeal against the HC order. Gautam Navlakha and the other accused were booked under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code. Navlakha's lawyer Yug Chaudhary had argued that the accused was an author and a peace activist and was a specialist in conflict zones.
"He was in the past appointed as a mediator by the government of India when Naxals had kidnapped six policemen. He is in contact with Naxals but that is only for his books and other fact-finding research. How can this contact attract provisions of the UAPA," Chaudhary said.
"Navlakhahas made democracy possible for those living on the margins. Such a person should be cherished and celebrated. But the government is persecuting him with charges like waging war against the nation and sedition," he argued.
Besides Navlakha, four others, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Sudha Bharadwaj, are accused in the case.
The Elgar conclave was held at historic Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, ahead of the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon.
According to police, speeches made at the Elgar conclave aggravated the caste violence around Bhima-Koregaon village in the district of Pune on January 1, 2018, in which one person, identified as 28-year-old Rahul Fatangale from Nanded, was killed and many others were injured.
In November last year, the Maharashtra police filed a 5,600-page charge sheet at a Pune court. They filed evidence including purported seizures from raids on the activists, letters, call record details, statements of police officers, and people involved in the organization of Elgar Parishad. It went beyond the caste violence and alleged a Maoist conspiracy to stage violent attacks, including a plot to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Police had recovered some documents which talked about a plot to assassinate PM Modi in a way similar to that of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination.