The Supreme Court on Friday said that its November order allowing human rights activist Gautam Navlakha to be placed under house arrest might set a “wrong precedent”, reported Live Law.
Navlakha, who was arrested in August 2018, was placed under house arrest on November 19 on the basis of an order passed by a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice KM Joseph, who has since retired. This was after the activist filed a plea seeking to be shifted from jail on the grounds of ill health and poor facilities in prison.
Navlakha has been accused of involvement in the Bhima Koregaon case, which pertains to caste violence in a village near Pune in 2018. He was among 16 people arrested for allegedly plotting the violence.
On Friday, a Supreme Court bench of Justices MM Sundresh and JB Pardiwala was considering Navlakha’s application to shift his house arrest location from Pune to Mumbai, reported Live Law.
Additional Solicitor General SV Raju told the bench the order placing Navlakha under house arrest was an unusual order and is probably the first of its kind, PTI reported.
“He obtained the house order on grounds of his sickness,” Raju said. “He said one lady would stay with him. But she isn’t staying most of the time.”
He contended that the house arrest order was unwarranted.
To this, Justice Sundresh said that the court had reservations about the November ruling but a lengthy order was passed at the time.
“Without going into the merits of the case, this might set a wrong precedent,” he said. “[Navlakha’s plea] may have 100% merit and we are not saying anything on that. But to facilitate this, and do this for one person...”
Senior advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan, appearing for Navlakha, told the court that the National Investigation Agency’s own medical examination showed that the activist was suffering from ailments, according to PTI.
Ramakrishnan’s statement comes in the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s order in May 2021 that house arrests can be ordered taking into account criteria like age, health condition and the antecedents of the accused, nature of the crime, the need for other forms of custody and the ability to enforce the terms of the house arrest. The court had passed the order while rejecting Navlakha’s default bail plea.
On Friday, the Supreme Court adjourned the hearing on Navlakha’s plea for shifting the location of house arrest for eight weeks. This was after Raju said that the investigating agency was yet to file a counter-affidavit to the activist’s plea.