The Supreme Court on Friday extended the interim protection from arrest granted to activist Gautam Navlakha till October 15 in the Bhima Koregaon case, PTI reported. 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 top court.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta directed the Maharashtra government to place before it the material collected during the ongoing investigation against the activist in the case. The court said it will hear the arguments in the case next on October 15.

The development came after five top court judges recused themselves in the three instances the case came up for hearing since September 30. Navlakha has challenged a Bombay High Court order rejecting his petition to quash a first information report filed against him.

On Thursday, Justice Ravindra Bhat recused from hearing the petition when it came up for admission before a third three-judge bench that comprised of Mishra, and Justice Vineet Saran. On Tuesday, all three judges – NV Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai – recused themselves from hearing the petition a day after Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said he would not be able to hear the case.

Also read: Five SC judges have recused themselves in Navlakha case. What would happen if all judges did so?

The case

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 police claimed that the violence had been triggered by a meeting called the Elgar Parishad event the day before in Pune that had been organised to commemorate the Battle of Bhima Koregaon in 1818 between the East India Company and the Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confederacy.

In its order, the High Court 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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