Bom HC | Bhima-Koregaon – Gautam Navlakha’s plea to quash the FIR filed against him, dismissed

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench comprising of Ranjit More and Bharati H. Dangre, JJ. addressed a petition filed by Gautam Navlakha an accused in the Bhima – Koregaon Case, in order to quash the proceedings of FIR registered on 08-01-2018 qua him.

Sequence of events

The FIR was registered pertaining to a complaint, initially, for the offence punishable under Sections 153 A, 505(l) (b), 117 read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860. FIR proceeds on the lines that fist informant came to know through social networking sites that there is a programme at Shaniwarwada organised by Elgar Parishad and he attended the same.

Further, he stated that some of the performers at the programme enacted shot-plays, dances and songs which were provocative in nature and had the effect of creating communal disharmony. Few objectionable books and other literature were kept at the venue for sale. In the FIR it was also alleged that the banned organisation CO (Maoist) was inciting violence.

Adding to the stated, the allegation that members of Kabir-Kala Manch spread hatred through their songs, plays and speeches causing enmity between different communities and as a result thereof, there were incidents of violence, arson and stone pelting near Bhima – Koregaon causing loss of lives and public money.

January 1st 2018 – Events occurring at Bhima – Koregaon had wide repercussions throughout the State of Maharashtra, law and order was affected. The investigation revealed that there was deep-rooted conspiracy to create communal disharmony and accordingly Section 120-B was added.

May 17th 2018 – Provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 were invoked. Sections 13, 16, 17, 18, 18 B, 20, 38, 39 and 40 of the said Act were added to the subject FIR.

August 28th 2018 – Petitioner along with four others came to be arrested from their houses in Delhi and was immediately taken to the Court of CJM, Delhi, who granted two days transit remand to Pune police. On the very same day, a habeas corpus petition was filed on behalf of the petitioner in the Delhi High Court and the Court directed that the petitioner will not be moved from Delhi till further orders. In the evening of the same day, Delhi High Court stayed the mentioned order and directed the house arrest.

August 29th 2018 – Five academicians filed a PIL in the Supreme Court praying for Court-monitored SIT. Supreme Court extended the interim protection granted to the petitioner by Delhi High Court from 28-08-2018.

September 28th 2018 – Supreme Court by majority of 2:1 declined to order a Court-monitored investigation but extended the house arrest.

October 1st 2018 – Delhi High Court quashed the petitioner’s arrest and ordered his release from the house arrest. In pursuance to the liberty granted by the Supreme Court to the petitioner, the present petition is filed. Petition was finally heard on 26-07-2019 and the order was reserved.

Background of the facts

Petitioner claims to be the human right activist for decades and his outspoken views on political issues are claimed to be well within the constitutional guarantee of free speech. He was called upon by the State to assist in securing the release of officials abducted by left-wing extremists in 2011. Petitioner adds that he has been an open critic of left-wing extremist violence.

Contentions

Counsel for the petitioner, Dr Choudhary submitted that the FIR does not disclose any offence under the provisions of UAPA Act. Petitioner had nothing to do with either Elgar Parishad or the organisation of the event as mentioned above, either as the member of the said Parishad or as a participant in the event. Neither the petitioner was present nor involved in the violence of Bhima-Koregaon, therefore, subject FIR is manifestly unjust and is liable to be quashed.

References in the computer of a third party are being used against the petitioner, which is not legally permissible. Mere references by name is insufficient for adding someone in the FIR. Counsel also added to his submissions that even if the allegations made in the FIR are taken at face value, they do not make out a case against the petitioner and therefore the subject FIR deserves to be quashed qua the petitioner.

Learned APP, Mrs Pai submitted that the petitioner is found to be working and is an active member of a banned terrorist organisation, namely, Communist Party of India (Moist). Petitioner was also found providing strategic inputs in furtherance of the objective of armed rebellion as per the strategic document of the banned terrorist organisation.

Conclusion

The High Court on perusal of the material filed, contentions, facts and the documents recovered from the electronic devices of the petitioner and others relied upon by the prosecution as disclosed in the charge-sheet, are satisfied that the investigating agency has material to connect the petitioner in the subject crime.

Court stated that in respect to the nature and magnitude of the conspiracy, the investigating agency is required to be given sufficient time to unearth the evidence against the petitioner, especially when the scope of investigation is not restricted to Bhima-Koregaon incident but activities leading to the incident and subsequent activities as well are the subject matter of investigation.

Therefore, the present petition in view of the above is without any merit and the same is accordingly dismissed. [Gautam P. Navlakha v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 1866, decided on 13-09-2019]

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