Supreme Court on Thursday allowed activist and Bhima Koregaon accused Gautam Navlakha's plea for house arrest on medical grounds. Seventy-year-old Navlakha, will live in a residence screened by police officials and will be cared for by his partner Sehba Husain (71), and a state-approved house help.
In allowing the plea, Supreme Court noted that Navlakha has been in custody since 2020. Apart from this case, he does not have any criminal antecedents. The court noted that no complaints were raised the last time Navlakha was placed under house arrest in April 2018.
Navlakha is not unjustified in asking for house arrest, the court noted. SC noted that the though the chargesheet was filed in 2020, the sessions court has not framed any charges against any of the accused. "Quite unlikely, that case will make any progress towards culmination," the bench comprising Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy said.
"We would think that we should allow house arrest, at least to begin with, for a period of one month," the bench said.
Navlakha had moved Supreme Court after the Bombay High Court on April 26 had refused his petition. Navlakha, an accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, was initially placed under house arrest since August 2018. However, after a Supreme Court order in April 2020, he was moved to Maharashtra's Taloja Central Prison on the outskirts of Mumbai.
Conditions for house arrest:
Navlakha has been directed to deposit an amount of Rs. 2.4 lakhs with the state treasury to meet the necessary expenses that will be incurred due to the deployment of police personnel and installation of CCTVs among other things. He has further been directed to furnish a local surety of Rs. 3 lakhs.
Other conditions imposed are:
- House under CCTV surveillance with the camera installed at points of entry, exit and outside all rooms.
- One armed official posted outside the house
- No permission to leave the house except for police-escorted walks (he has been directed not to engage with anyone on these walks)
- Ban on the use of mobiles, internet
- Can read newspapers and watch Cable TV provided they are without internet
- Phone calls are permitted once a day for 10 mins from a phone provided by the police personnel
- Phone calls will be screened by the NIA
- Two family members are allowed to visit once a week for three hours
- Navlakha's partner Sehba Husain is also not allowed to use a smartphone. She may use a basic phone without the internet which can make calls and send SMS. Husain is not allowed to delete call details or SMSes.
- He cannot leave the jurisdiction of Mumbai city
- No electronic gadgets are permitted even when visitors come in
- No contact with any witnesses in the case;
- Navlakha is permitted to his counsel as per Jail Manual rules
- Navlakha must inform police officials in case of a medical emergency, who will then take him to a suitable hospital
Platoon of police officials, CCTVs, No mobile, no internet: NIA's wish list to SC
After hearing the plea in detail, Supreme Court on November 9 had expressed its inclination to place Navlakha under house arrest and asked the central probe agency to submit a wish list of conditions it wished to impose.
On November 10, though NIA came with its wish list, it took the opportunity to once again oppose the plea for house arrest. On Thursday, NIA told Supreme Court that there was a "twist in the tale" and alluded to the possibility that the medical reports could be suspect since one of the doctors—Dr. S Kothari—was Navlakha's brother-in-law.
The court however did not buy into NIA's submission after pointing out that other doctors on the committee assessing Navlakha's medical condition had also given their opinions on his health.
NIA said if Navlakha were placed under house arrest, it was appropriate to station a platoon of officers as security deployment. It also wanted a blueprint of the house to study entrances, exits, and the number of doors.
It sought the installation of CCTVs and a host of other conditions, some of which were accepted by the Supreme Court after appropriate tweaks.
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