Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Monday recused himself from hearing activist Gautam Navlakha’s plea to quash a first information report filed against him in the Bhima Koregaon case, reported Bar and Bench. Navlakha has challenged a Bombay High Court order rejecting his petition.

Navlakha is accused of having links with Maoists. He was one of the five activists arrested in August 2018 in connection with the violence that broke out in the village near Pune on January 1 that year between Dalits and Marathas. The violence was allegedly triggered by an Elgar Parishad event the day before in Pune that was organised to commemorate the Battle of Bhima Koregaon in 1818 between the East India Company and the Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confederacy. Many Dalits fought for the British in the battle against the Brahmin Peshwas.

On September 13, the Bombay High Court had extended Navlakha’s interim relief from arrest in the case for three weeks, allowing him to appeal in the Supreme Court. When the matter came up for hearing before a Gogoi and Justices SA Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer, the chief justice said the matter be listed before a bench that does not include him.

In its order, the High Court had said the alleged offences by Navlakha were not limited to the violence. “There are many more facets to it,” it added. “Considering the magnitude of the case, we feel a thorough investigation is required. The case is not without basis and absence of material.”

Along with Navlakha, activists Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao were also arrested. 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.

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