The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected activist Gautam Navlakha’s plea seeking default bail in the Bhima Koregaon case, reported Live Law.

The activist, who has been in prison since his surrender on April 14 last year, had filed a default bail plea in June on the grounds that the National Investigation Agency had failed to file a chargesheet within the stipulated period of 90 days. However, a trial court had rejected his plea, following which he approached the High Court to challenge the order.

On February 8, the Bombay High Court had dismissed the default bail plea, saying there was “no reason to interfere with the order of the trial court”. Navlakha then moved the Supreme Court against the High Court order.

The NIA claimed that the 34-day period of Navlakha’s house arrest between August 29 and October 1, 2018, was termed “illegal” by the Delhi High Court and hence could not be included in the period of detention. Navlakha wants this 34-day period included when the time for filing the chargesheet was calculated. The activist was charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

During the hearing in the High Court on the default bail plea in December, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Navlakha, had argued in December that the period he spent under house arrest must be considered as time spent in judicial custody.

Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the NIA, had opposed the bail, saying that the 34 days was declared illegal and should therefore not be included in the custody period. Raju also argued that the date an accused was produced before the court was relevant, and not the date of arrest while deciding if he should be granted default bail or not.

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.