Delhi High Court frees activist from house arrest

The Asian Age.

India, All India

Following the high court’s order for his release, Mr Navlakha said, “From Delhi high court I have won my freedom and it thrills me no end”.

Gautam Navlakha (Photo: File | PTI)

New Delhi: In a major setback to the Maharashtra police, the Delhi high court on Monday set free journalist and social activist Gautam Navlakha, one of the five activists arrested for their alleged links with a banned Maoist group on August 28, from house arrest. The court ordered his release while quashing a trial court order’s granting transit remand to Maharashtra police to take him to Pune.

A two-judge bench of Justices S. Muralidhar and Vinod Goel set aside the August 28 order of chief metropolitan magistrate granting transit remand of Mr Navlakha saying there was non-compliance of basic provisions of the Constitution and the CrPC. The trial court also said that Mr Navlakha’s detention had exceeded 24 hours, which is “untenable in law”.

“In view of Section 56 read with Section 57 of the CrPC and absence of remand order of the CMM, the detention of the petitioner has clearly exceeded 24 hours which is untenable in law. Consequently, the house arrest of the petitioner comes to an end now,” the bench said. The court, however, made it clear that this order will not preclude the state of Maharashtra from proceeding further.

Following the high court’s order for his release, Mr Navlakha said, “From Delhi high court I have won my freedom and it thrills me no end”.

Last week, the Supreme Court held that the arrests of five activists, including Mr Navlakha, appeared to have been prompted by their alleged links to a banned organisation and not dissent or their political ideology.

By a majority opinion, the top court dismissed the petition filed by historian Romila Thapar and four others seeking a Supreme Court-monitored special investigation team (SIT) probe into the allegations against the five arrested activists — . But the apex court said the accused could seek legal recourse at an appropriate court within four weeks.

The Maharashtra police wanted to take Mr Navlakha to Pune in connection with an FIR lodged there following an event, Elgaar Parishad (conclave), on December 31 last year that had triggered violence at Koregaon-Bhima village which spread to other parts of the state.

On Monday, when the counsel for Maharashtra government asked the court to extend Mr Navlakha’s house arrest by two more days, as the apex court had also extended it by four weeks, the bench said the counsel had overlooked that the top court has passed this order to enable the activist to avail appropriate legal remedy.  

Mr Navlakha and the four other activists arrested from different parts of the country were put under house arrest on August 29 following the apex court’s order.