The Bombay High Court on Wednesday observed that prima facie there is no evidence against activist Gautam Navlakha, who has been accused by the police of having links with Maoists, PTI reported. The activist is being investigated in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. The court extended Navlakha’s protection from arrest till June 18, when the matter will be heard again.
Navlakha and activists Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao were arrested on August 28 for their alleged involvement in an event that preceded the violence between Dalits and Marathas at Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1, 2018. They were subsequently placed under house arrest.
The activists were booked under provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Indian Penal Code.
A division bench of justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre on Wednesday was hearing Navlakha’s petition seeking to quash the case against him. The court perused the documents submitted by the prosecution against the accused activists. The documents included letters allegedly written by Maoist leaders to Navlakha.
“There is nothing against him [Navlakha] in any of the letters,” PTI quoted More as saying. “We are of the prima facie opinion that there is nothing against him based on the documents submitted to us.”
Additional Public Prosecutor Aruna Kamat Pai told the court that several other documents recovered from Navlakha’s laptop incriminate him. The prosecutor submitted the documents to the bench in a sealed envelope, saying they cannot be shared with Navlakha as the investigation against him was under way.
However, the court said there was “nothing secretive” about the documents. “We are of the prima facie opinion that these documents can be given to him [Navlakha],” More said.
Five other activists – Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson and Sudhir Dhawale – were arrested in June 2018 as part of the same investigation and a chargesheet has been filed against them. The 10 arrested activists are accused of masterminding the violence in Bhima Koregaon and of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).