Elgar Parishad Case: Court delays Gautam Navlakha’s Release over ‘Safety Concerns’

New Delhi: Six days after the Supreme Court issued an interim order allowing Elgaar Parishad case accused Gautam Navlakha to be placed under house arrest, his release was postponed after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) raised “serious objections” on Wednesday over the location chosen as his residence in Navi Mumbai. The special court in Mumbai ruled that keeping Navlakha under house arrest at the premises in Navi Mumbai would be inappropriate based on the NIA’s evaluation report. Suhasini Mulay, Navlakha’s surety, appeared in court in Mumbai on Wednesday (November 11, 2022).  On Thursday, Navlakha’s lawyers are expected to file a petition with the Supreme Court. In his order issued on Wednesday evening, special judge Rajesh Katariya stated, “…the learned special public prosecutor submitted that the prosecution is going to file a report of the evaluation of the premises before the Honourable Apex Court, it would not be appropriate to shift the accused in the given premises at this stage until further necessary directions of the Honourable Apex Court in view of serious objections on the part of the prosecution.”

Supreme Court states

On November 10, the Supreme Court stated that Navlakha could be placed under house arrest for a month following an evaluation by the NIA within 48 hours of its order and subject to the conditions set by it. His lawyers informed the court that a location in Navi Mumbai had been identified. On Wednesday, Navlakha’s lawyers, Yug Mohit Chaudhry and Wahab Khan told the Mumbai special court that there was an “inexorable delay” in implementing the Supreme Court order and that the NIA was “dragging its feet” in submitting the evaluation report and conducting surety verification.

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After inspecting the premises, the NIA, through Special Public Prosecutor Prakash Shetty, submitted the evaluation report to the Mumbai court. According to the report, Navlakha, who is currently being held at Taloja Central Jail, will be placed under house arrest on the first floor of a building with a public library on the ground floor. It went on to say that because the library is open to the public, it is “not safe from the standpoint of safety and security” for Navlakha and that it would be difficult to keep an eye on him.

The NIA also claimed that, while the first-floor premises have two entry and exit points, only one CCTV camera was installed, failing to meet the SC’s requirements. Shetty went on to say that the building was named after a CPI(M) secretary and was managed by “comrades.” When asked if the NIA had any objections to the premises, Shetty stated that he was only presenting facts to the court. He stated that the objection was based on safety concerns.

Chaudhry testified in court that they were prepared to install CCTV cameras “wherever the NIA wanted, at whatever angles they wanted.” He went on to say that Navlakha and his companion would be confined to the first floor, with no access to the ground floor library or the open terrace.

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He also stated that the conditions imposed by the Supreme Court had been met and that Navlakha should be released immediately. “You cannot go on and on about ‘comrades’ owning the premises. The CPI(M) is a registered political party,” Chaudhry said

Meanwhile, Navlakha’s surety, actor Suhasini Mulay, appeared in court in Mumbai on Wednesday. Mulay testified in court that she had known Navlakha for over 30 years since he had lived in Delhi. The court accepted her as Navlakha’s surety.

(With agencies inputs)