The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the National Investigation Agency to reply after hearing the bail plea of civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha, an accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, reported Bar and Bench. On February 19, the activist had moved the Supreme Court against the Bombay High Court’s rejection of his bail petition.

A bench of Justices UU Lalit, Indira Banerjee, and KM Joseph issued the notice to the central investigating agency. The case will be heard again on March 15, reported Live Law.

Navlakha, who has been in prison since April 14, filed the default bail plea on the grounds that the National Investigation Agency had failed to file its chargesheet within the stipulated period of 90 days. However, a special court rejected his plea, following which he approached the High Court.

The Bombay High Court said on February 8 that there was no reason to interfere with the order of the trial court.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Navlakha, had argued that the period he spent under house arrest must be considered as time spent in judicial custody.

The NIA, on the other hand, submitted that the 34 days between August 29 and October 1, 2018, when Navlakha was under house arrest was declared illegal by the Delhi High Court and should not be included in the custody period. The agency also argued that the date on which an accused person is produced before the court is relevant while deciding on their bail, and not the date of arrest.

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Bhima Koregaon case

Several activists and academicians have been jailed in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. They were accused of making inflammatory speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave held at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the authorities claim triggered the violence at Bhima-Koregaon war memorial on the next day. One person was killed and several others were injured in the incident.

The first chargesheet was filed by the Pune Police in November 2018, which ran to over 5,000 pages. It named activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, all of whom were arrested in June 2018. The police claimed that those arrested had “active links” with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and accused the activists of plotting to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A supplementary chargesheet was filed in February 2019, against human rights activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) leader Ganapathy. The accused were charged with “waging war against the nation” and spreading the ideology of the CPI (Maoist), besides creating caste conflicts and hatred in the society.

The Centre transferred the case to the National Investigation Agency in January 2020 after the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Maharashtra was defeated.

Eight people who have been named in the NIA chargesheet for the January 2018 violence are former Indian Institute of Technology professor Anand Teltumbde, his brother Milind Teltumbde, Navlakha, Delhi University associate professor Hany Babu, three members of the cultural group Kabir Kala Manch and human rights activist Stan Swamy. Milind Teltumbde has been named as an absconding accused and top operative of CPI (Maoist) in the chargesheet.

Telugu poet and activist Varavara Rao, one of the accused in the case, was in February granted bail on medical grounds for six months by the Bombay High Court.